What Is the Impact of HIV on Racial and Ethnic Minorities in the U.S.?
HIV can affect anyone regardless of sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, gender, age, or where they live. However, in the United States, some racial/ethnic groups are more affected than others, given their percentage of the population. This is because some population groups have higher rates of HIV in their communities, thus raising the risk of new infections with each sexual or injection drug use encounter. Additionally, a range of social, economic, and demographic factors such as stigma, discrimination, income, education, and geographic region can affect people’s risk for HIV as well as their HIV-related outcomes.
Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino communities are disproportionately affected by HIV compared to other racial/ethnic groups. For example, in 2019, Blacks/African Americans represented 13% of the US population, but 40% of people with HIV. Hispanics/Latinos represented 18.5% of the population, but 25% of people with HIV.
The disproportionate impact of HIV on Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino communities is also evident in incidence (new HIV infections), showing that effective prevention and treatment are not adequately reaching people who could benefit most.
Certain subpopulations within racial and ethnic minority groups are affected as well. For example, gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) are by far the most affected group in the US. They account for about 66% of new infections each year, even though they make up only 2% of the population, with the highest burden among Black and Latino gay and bisexual men. According to CDC, in 2019, 26% of new HIV infections were among Black gay and bisexual men, 23% among Latino gay and bisexual men, and 45% among gay and bisexual men under the age of 35.
Among women, disparities also exist. Black women are disproportionately affected by HIV as compared to women of other races/ethnicities. Although annual HIV infections remained stable overall among Black women from 2015 to 2019, the rate of new HIV infections among Black women is 11 times that of white women and four times that of Latina women.
Further, over 1 million people identify as transgender in the United States. In 2019, adult and adolescent transgender people composed 2% (669) of new HIV diagnoses in the United States and dependent areas. Most of those new HIV diagnoses were among Black/African American people.
The National HIV/AIDS Strategy and Priority Populations
The National HIV/AIDS Strategy (2022-2025) is the nation’s roadmap for ending the HIV epidemic in the U.S. by 2030. It recognizes racism as a serious public health threat that drives and affects both HIV outcomes and disparities. The Strategy also notes while HIV remains a threat in every part of the United States, certain populations bear most of the burden, signaling where our HIV prevention, care, and treatment efforts must be focused. It therefore designates five priority populations: Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, in particular, Black, Latino, and American Indian/Alaska Native men; Black women; transgender women; youth aged 13-24 years; and people who inject drugs.
Learn more: View NHAS-at-a-Glance.
For in-depth information about the impact of HIV on different racial and ethnic populations, see these CDC fact sheets:
Risk by race/ethnicity
- HIV and African American People
- HIV and American Indian/Alaska Native People
- HIV and Asians
- HIV and Hispanic/Latino People
- HIV and Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders
Risk by sexual orientation
The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program and Racial and Ethnic Minority Populations
The Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program (RWHAP) provides a comprehensive system of HIV primary medical care, medications, and essential support services for low-income people with HIV who are uninsured and underserved. The program serves more than half a million each year, comprising 50 percent of people with HIV in the United States.
Nearly three-quarters of RWHAP clients are from racial and ethnic minority populations. The percentage distribution of client race/ethnicity populations has remained consistent since 2016. In 2020, approximately 47% of clients self-identified as Black/African American, 26% as White, 24% as Hispanic/Latino, and less than 2% each as American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and people of multiple races. Further, in 2020, 89.4 percent of RWHAP clients receiving HIV medical care were virally suppressed, exceeding the national viral suppression average of 65.5 percent among all people with diagnosed HIV. This is a critical component of ending the HIV epidemic because people with HIV who take their medication as prescribed and reach and maintain an undetectable viral load have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting the virus to an HIV-negative partner.
To learn more about HIV care outcomes for racial and ethnic clients and others served by the RWHAP program, view the RWHAP 2020 Annual Client-Level Data Report.
Minority HIV/AIDS Fund
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Minority HIV/AIDS Fund is transforming HIV prevention, care, and treatment for communities of color by bringing federal, state, and community organizations together to design and test innovative solutions that address critical emerging needs and by working to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and impact of federal investments in HIV programs and services for racial and ethnic minorities.
The Fund improves our national response to HIV in multiple ways, including through support for Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America, a federal initiative designed to reduce the number of new HIV infections in the United States by 75 percent over five years and 90 percent by 2030.