Since the AIDS epidemic began in 1981, more than 640,000 Americans have been diagnosed with the disease and more than 385,000 men, women and children have lost their lives to it. An estimated 650,000 to 900,000 Americans are believed to be living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
The Clinton Administration has made an unprecedented commitment to battle this epidemic by responding aggressively to the growing threat, enhancing research, treatment and prevention initiatives. Innovative policies and aggressive new strategies are making a difference. The National Center for Health Statistics announced October 8, 1998 that the age-adjusted death rate from HIV infection in the U.S. declined by an unprecedented 47 percent from 1996 to 1997, and HIV infection fell from 8th to 14th place among leading causes of death for the same period.
But while the news on the HIV/AIDS front is encouraging overall, recent data indicate that the face of this disease is changing. While overall AIDS deaths are down, it remains a severe and ongoing crisis in African-American and other racial and ethnic minority communities, and is the leading killer of African-American men age 25-44 and the second leading killer of African-American women in the same age group. The largest percentage increases for HIV/AIDS are now among women and youth, racial and ethnic minorities, injecting drug users and their sexual partners.
Part of the Clinton Administration's response to the disproportionate burden of AIDS in racial and ethnic minorities is outreach to those communities most heavily affected. Most recently, the Department held discussions with the Congressional Black Caucus about ways to enhance the fight against HIV/AIDS - especially in African-American communities.
As a result of those discussions, the Department has announced a special package of initiatives aimed at reducing the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS on racial and ethnic minorities. Based on discussions with the Congressional Black Caucus and final FY 1999 appropriations action, HHS will spend an additional $156 million on targeted initiatives to address HIV/AIDS among racial and ethnic minorities.