Delegate to Congress Donna M. Christensen spoke about the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on the Virgin Islands at a press conference and panel discussion at the 19th International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.
She was joined by members of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS as well as other advocates and educators in the field.
“While Washington, D.C., is one of the epidemic’s epicenters, so too is my district, the U.S. Virgin Islands, which has the third highest AIDS case rate in the United States,” Christensen said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 21.6 people per 100,000 in the Virgin Islands are infected with HIV. Only Maryland (22.1 per 100,000) and the District of Columbia (112.5 per 100,000) have higher rates in the United States and its dependent territories.
Christensen said that while advances have been made in the treatment and prevention of HIV and AIDS, the disease is still far too prevalent in the Africa-American community.
“There are more than 1 million people living with HIV/AIDS today and no community has been hit harder than the black community,” she said. “The AIDS case rate among African Americans is nearly 10 times higher than whites, and the rate of new AIDS diagnoses among women is 22 times higher among African Americans.”
The CDC estimates that the disease infects 50,000 Americans every year and, of those, African Americans make up the vast majority. The CDC warns that 1 in 16 black men and 1 in 32 black women will be diagnosed with HIV during their lives.
The International AIDS Conference is a gathering of the world’s top doctors, scientists and philanthropists working on the HIV/AIDS epidemic. It also attracts many high-profile advocates. Other speakers at he conference included Bill and Hillary Clinton, Bill Gates and Elton John.
The conference runs through July 27 in Washington, D.C. For more information, visit: www.aids2012.org.