John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
The HIV scourge continues to disproportionately affect poor urban areas.
Ever since the HIV virus infiltrated the United States around 1969, the infectious agent has gained a foothold in the country that's proven impossible to shake off. Though it's traveled widely through the states, the virus has taken a special liking to big cities; 44 percent of AIDS cases in America were centered in only 12 metropolitan areas in 2007, according to the CDC.
Scientists have found that the prevalence of HIV in many impoverished urban areas matches that of low-income countries with HIV epidemics, like Angola and Ethiopia. This ongoing scourge of urban America is evident in these updated maps from AIDSVu, a visualization project managed by the Rollins School of Public Health at Atlanta's Emory University and Gilead Sciences (which makes drugs to treat HIV infection). The interactive map allows you to zoom into the largest bastions of infection in America, like New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Miami, and then filter the results by ethnicity, age, economic status and other criteria. Hot spots are evident in so many neighborhoods that you have to wonder why many people think AIDS and HIV are no longer serious health threats, perhaps because we think that drugs can manage the problem.
The maps are based on CDC data for people above age 13 who had an HIV diagnosis as of December 2010. What they don't show are the undiagnosed cases. The government believes that of the estimated 1,148,200 Americans living with HIV in 2009, a full 207,600 didn't know they had the infection. As for the current state of the scourge, HIV's prevalence hasn't changed much in terms of total numbers in the past couple of years (2008 to 2010), but has increased among certain groups like African Americans, men who have sex with men and some young people.
Here are a few quick snapshots of the HIV and AIDS prevalence in urban hubs. For more info on AIDSVu's methodologies, head to its FAQ page, and if you want to find how your own city rates check these local maps. This is New York City: