top of page

5 Shocking Facts About HIV in Atlanta for Black Women

In June 1981, the first case of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) was reported in the United States. Four decades later, the number of individuals living with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in the US has soared to over 1.2 million.

According to industry sources, more than 35,000 new infections are reported each year in the US.

A pensive Black woman looking at the Atlanta skyline
Black women have infection rates 11 times higher than White women

Atlanta, in particular, has some of the highest HIV infection rates in the world. And this begs the question; why is Atlanta an HIV hotspot?

Many factors contribute to Atlanta’s high HIV infection rate, including poverty, inadequate HIV education, stigmatization, and prevalent drug and substance abuse. We're highlighting five critical facts that put the HIV epidemic in Atlanta into perspective.

How Prevalent Is HIV Within the Black Population?

Black communities in Atlanta, including the LGBTQIA+ and cisgender communities, bear a more significant burden of HIV compared to other racial and ethnic groups due to several factors, including:

Healthcare Access Disparities

There are intersectional barriers to accessing sexual and reproductive healthcare, such as lack of health insurance, poverty, and limited availability of healthcare facilities in their neighborhoods. These can restrict access to HIV testing, counseling, and treatment.

Limited Awareness

Another driver of new cases is a lack of accessible HIV education and awareness programs targeting Black communities. Education and awareness of safer sex techniques, the importance of regular testing, and medication prevention like PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a proven way to lower rates of new cases. A lack of funding and focus for awareness campaigns and messaging catered to Black communities therefore directly contributes the prevalence of the disease in Atlanta.

Social and Economic Factors

The HIV epidemic is an intersectional public health crisis. Higher levels of unemployment, unstable housing situations, and limited access to opportunities, African and African American individuals may become more vulnerable to HIV.


HIV stigma is just as deadly as HIV stigma itself. Stigma and discrimination can discourage individuals from seeking HIV testing, treatment, and support, which is another major issue.

Structural and Systemic Factors

Challenges such as poverty and systemic racism can create environments that contribute to excessive rates of HIV among Black populations. Race and magnify other forms of oppression.

Limited Healthcare Resources

Another problem is inadequate access to healthcare facilities, such as HIV testing, treatment, and prevention clinics. This hinders timely diagnosis, treatment, and care for HIV.

A chart showing rates of HIV infection in the community

5 Reasons HIV Affects Black Women More than Others

Now let’s look at five main facts we have gathered about the nature of HIV in Atlanta and how women are affected:

Fact 1: High Prevalence among Black Women in Atlanta

In a 2017 study, census data revealed that although Black people constituted 35% of Atlanta’s population, 70% of people living with HIV were Black.

This disparity was particularly pronounced among Black women, as the rate of those diagnosed with HIV among them was 15 times higher than their White counterparts.

In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that Black men had an infection rate six times higher than White men, while Black women faced an even greater risk with an infection rate 11 times higher than White women.

To put this into perspective, the rate of Black females living with an HIV diagnosis was 17 times that of White females, underscoring the disproportionate impact of the disease on Black women.

A chart showing that black women face 17 times the rate of HIV infections compared to white women

Fact 2: Intersection of HIV and Poverty

In Atlanta, HIV and poverty have been closely related within the Black population.

For instance, unhoused persons face heightened vulnerability and lack ability to purchase safer sex items like condoms, making them more prone to risky behaviors such as unprotected sex and drug injection. These activities, in turn, increase their susceptibility to HIV infection.

When it comes to transwomen, there are similar trends.

The CDC reports that almost 60% of transwomen in metro Atlanta are HIV positive. These women face various forms of discrimination and marginalization, such as socioeconomic disadvantages that significantly heighten their risk of HIV transmission.

Fact 3: Limited Awareness and Education

The level of care provided plays a significant role in determining the engagement of Black women living with HIV.

Although pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) has proven highly effective in preventing HIV transmission, there is a notable lack of uptake among Black cisgender women. This highlights the need to address relevant barriers and challenges to increase awareness and access to PrEP.

In the long run, improving the quality of care is a crucial factor that can positively impact the level of engagement and involvement of patients in their treatment and overall well-being.

Fact 4: Stigma and its Impact on Testing and Treatment

Black women living with HIV face systemic injustices that limit their ability to make reproductive health decisions both in social and medical contexts. Such issues create barriers that affect their autonomy and control over their own bodies.

Over time, there should be deliberate efforts to address and dismantle these inequalities to empower patients and ensure their rights are respected and supported.

Fact 5: Inherent Barriers to HIV Prevention and Treatment

Some other hindrances to the aversion and treatment of HIV among Atlanta women include a perceived low risk of infection, fear of positive test results, and social norms. These factors continue to play a role in influencing HIV risk behaviors among Black women in Atlanta.

You Can Help to Stop the Spread of HIV

While this crisis is challenging, SisterLove and other organizations are working to solve it through providing accessible HIV testing like self-test kits, mobile testing clinics, and stigma-free testing led by people who live with HIV.

A purple mobile testing clinic bus parked on a street
SisterLove's Mobile Testing Clinic

Meeting people where they live without judgement is the best way to lower rates of new cases in our communities, and we're committed to doing so everyday.

If you'd like to help stop this crisis in your community, become a monthly supporter today.


bottom of page