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More African Americans still die of HIV than whites and Latinos combined, CDC says

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More African Americans still die of HIV than whites and Latinos combined, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday, but the black death rate is generally declining more quickly than it is for those other groups.

In 2012, the latest year for which data was compiled, 8,165 African Americans died of HIV, down from 9,920 in 2008, the new report shows. Among whites, 5,426 died in 2012, a smaller decline from the 5,662 who died four years earlier. The Latino population saw 2,586 deaths in 2012, a drop from the 2,949 who died in 2008.

Overall, the data show that HIV continues to disproportionately affect African Americans, as it has for years. But the good news is the decline in their death rate, which the report measured for every 100,000 members of the population and for every 1,000 people living with HIV.

From 2008 to 2012, "there was a consistent decline in the number of deaths and rates of death among blacks," the CDC noted in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly report. "The number of deaths decreased 18 percent, and rate per 100,000 population decreased 21 percent; rate per 1,000 persons living with HIV decreased 28 percent. Although deaths also decreased among other race/ethnicity groups, the decreases generally were greater and more consistent among blacks than among other races/ethnicities."

The report offers no reason for the more rapid decline in the death rate among African Americans. But in recent years, various groups have launched vigorous outreach programs in black communities to inform and treat hard-to-reach people at risk of contracting the virus. HIV and AIDS remain a major cause of death among African Americans.

Other data in the report illustrate the size of that problem. In 2011, 491,100 of the estimated 1.2 million people living with HIV were black, a higher proportion (41 percent) than for whites (34 percent). In 2010, 68.9 of every 100,000 blacks had HIV, nearly eight times the rate (8.7) for whites.

"In general, blacks with HIV are less likely to have their infection diagnosed, with 15% unaware of their infection in 2011 compared with 12% of whites," the report notes. "Among blacks whose HIV was diagnosed in 2012, 77% were linked to care, which was lower than the percentage among any other race/ethnicity; in 2011, the percentages of black persons living with HIV who were retained in care (48%) or who had a suppressed viral load (40%) were lower than the percentages among whites and Hispanics or Latinos."