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curiousKC | What Questions Do You Have Since HIV/AIDS First Emerged 40 Years Ago?

In collaboration with Regional Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker Sandy Woodson, curiousKC tackles your questions about the AIDS crisis

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In the 40 years since HIV/AIDS emerged, new therapies have made strides to decrease the ripple effects of the illness. But there’s still room for improvement, advocates say. 

Although instances of HIV have been declining in recent years, nearly 12.6 of 100,000 people in the U.S. are living with HIV, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Since the start of the epidemic, 40.1 million people worldwide have died. 

For those who’ve lived through it, they say this public health crisis didn’t disappear – it merely subsided in public attention. In Kansas City, the number of people living with HIV has increased every year since 2009. 

Health data show that the number of people living with HIV has increased every year since 2009.

Researchers have found that the effects of illness and loss are influenced by socioeconomic status, racial and ethnic identity and health status. It intersects with everything from housing to education. Data shared by the The Center for HIV Law Policy show that HIV disproportionately impacts women, transgender people and Black and Latino folks. 


Key data, according to UNAIDS:

  • The risk of acquiring HIV is:
    • 35 times higher among people who inject drugs than adults who do not inject drugs.
    • 30 times higher for female sex workers than adult women.
    • 28 times higher among gay men and other men who have sex with men than adult men.
    • 14 times higher for transgender women than adult women.
    • In 2021, about 1.5 million (1.1 million–2.0 million) people were newly infected with HIV, compared to 3.2 million (2.4 million–4.3 million) people in 1996.
    • Women and girls accounted for 49% of all new infections in 2021.

From the first time the virus raised a red flag from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to today there remain long-standing health inequities, studies show. 

So, we’d like feedback from community members on what our journalism should focus on. What about this topic do you want to learn more about? 

Check out our previous coverage of HIV in the region, then write to us. Your question might appear on the Flatland’s next episode on Kansas City PBS.   

The upcoming Flatland episode is a collaboration with Regional Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker Sandy Woodson, who will focus on the stories of people affected by the epidemic in the Midwest in “AIDS in KC.”

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