4 The Star/Nov. 25, 1983
AIDS Update: No Longer Gay White Man's Disease
By Dion B. Sanders
Via Gay Press Association Wire Service
SAN FRANCISCO —Shattering a
widely-held belief that AIDS is a "white
gay man's disease,"
previously-unpublicized data compiled by
the national Center for Disease Control in
Atlanta show that more than a third of all
AIDS patients in the United States are
from racial and ethnic minorities.
Moreover, a doctor's report published in
a leading medical journal says that while
a significant percentage of black and
Hispanic AIDS patients—not counting
Haitians—are intravenous drug users, an
equally-significant percentage of them are
In a telephone interview from Atlanta,
Dr. Richard Selik, director of AIDS
information at the CDC, reported that as
of Oct. 19, out of a total of 2513 AIDS cases
nationwide, only 57.9 percent are white.
Blacks (including Haitians), Hispanics,
Asians and Native Americans make up a
combined 40.9 percent, Selik said, with the
remaining 2.2 percent of undetermined
For months, news media reports have
repeatedly stated that AIDS patients are
primarily gay men, IV drug users,
Haitians and hemophiliacs receiving
blood transfusions. Gay men account for
71 percent of all AIDS cases nationwide.
The belief that AIDS is a "white gay
man's disease" stems from a long-held
perception of the gay community by the
general public—especially by minority
communities—as being exclusively white,
despite the emergence of gay and lesbian
people of color into the public eye in recent
(In San Francisco, this perception has
led to charges by some minority
community leaders that public funds
being appropriated for AIDS are being
taken away from existing health
programs for the poor—a disproportionate
percentage of whom are black and
Hispanic, according to local press
As of Oct. 19, there have been 1048
deaths, for a mortality rate of 41.7 percent
nationally, Selik reported.
Providing a breakdown of nationwide
AIDS figures by ethnic group, Selik
reported that blacks make up 21.1 percent.
AIDS CASES IN THE U.S.
BY RACIAL/ETHNIC ORIGIN
AS OF OCTOBER 19. 1983
ol cases ol cases
Other Ethnic Origin
'Less than 1 percent
Source: Center for Disease Control. Atlanta, Ga.
"with the figure rising to 25.8 percent
when Haitians are included.
"Hispanics make up 14.1 percent, with
Asians and Native Americans combined
comprising approximately 1 percent,"
"The remaining 32 percent of AIDS
patients are of undetermined ethnic
origin," he reported.
The proportion of blacks and Hispanics
among people with AIDS is striking in
that it is nearly double the proportion of
blacks and Hispanics in the U.S.
population as a whole.
Even more striking is the fact that as of
Oct. 19, there have been only eight cases of
AIDS reported nationally among Asians
and only three among Native Americans.
No nationwide city-by-city ethnic
breakdown was available from the CDC,
but according to figures compiled by the
San Francisco Department of Public
Health, out of a total of 288 cases in the
Greater Bay Area as of Oct. 18, 90.3
percent are white, 4.9 percent are black, 3.8
percent are Hispanic, and a fraction of 1
percent are Asian or Native American.
In sharp contrast, 50 percent of AIDS
cases reported in Philadelphia as early as
last July are black, according to that city's
health department, prompting the
creation of an AIDS education program
aimed specifically at black gays in that
Philadelphia, Atlanta and Washington,
D.C. all have sizeable black populations,
with blacks an overwhelming majority in
the nation's capital.
Asked what percentage of the non-white
AIDS cases are gay and what percentage
are IV drug users, Selik quoted figures
from an article by Dr. Harold Jaffe
published in the Aug. '83 issue of the
Journal of Infectious Diseases (Vol. 148, p.
The article, based on CDC reports of
2000 AIDS cases nationally as of last July,
reported that among non-Haitian blacks
who had AIDS, 17 percent were upfront
gays, 46 percent were IV drug users, and
37 percent were of undetermined risk
(A similar breakdown of Haitian AIDS
patients by the Jaffe article has been
rendered unreliable because of recent
news reports disclosing that many such
Haitians were gay, but were unwilling to
admit it, because of severe taboos against
homosexuality in Haitian society, Selik
Among Hispanic AIDS patients, the
Jaffe article reported that 11 percent were
upfront gays, 33 percent were IV drug
users, and 55 percent were of unknown
The Jaffe article contained no report on
Native Americans and Asians with AIDS,
because there were no reported cases
among them at the time the article was
published, Selik said.
Nor did the article contain information
on the number of AIDS patients who were
In the San Francisco area, only three
cases of AIDS among IV drug users have
been reported so far, according to Pat
Norman, coordinator of lesbian/gay
health services for the city.
Two are white; the third is black.
Norman noted that whereas 71 percent
of AIDS cases nationally are gay, the
figure rises to 90 percent in the San
Francisco area, as there are "only a
handful of Haitians," living here.
Locally, there have been 96 deaths, for a
mortality rate of approximately 35
Norman attributed the disparity of the
national and local mortality rates to the
near-absence of IV and Haitian AIDS
Selik reported that the percentage
ethnic breakdown "has been fairly
constant for more than a year." Asked
why the ethnic data had not previously
been published by either the gay or the
mainstream media up to now, Selik
responded, "Perhaps they (editors) for
some reason thought that it wasn't
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