Author(s): Rubin MS, Colen CG, Link BG
OBJECTIVES: We examined changes in socioeconomic status (SES) and Black to White inequalities in HIV/AIDS mortality in the United States before and after the introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART).
METHODS: Taking a fundamental cause perspective, we used negative binomial regression to analyze trends in county-level gender-, race-, and age-specific HIV/AIDS mortality rates among those aged 15 to 64 years during the period 1987-2005.
RESULTS: Although HIV/AIDS mortality rates decreased once HAART became available, the declines were not uniformly distributed among population groups. The associations between SES and HIV/AIDS mortality and between race and HIV/AIDS mortality, although present in the pre-HAART period, were significantly greater in the peri- and post-HAART periods, with higher SES and White race associated with the greatest declines in mortality during the post-HAART period.
CONCLUSIONS: Our findings support the fundamental cause hypothesis, as the introduction of a life-extending treatment exacerbated inequalities in HIV/AIDS mortality by SES and by race. In addition to a strong focus on factors that improve overall population health, more effective public health interventions and policies would facilitate an equitable distribution of health-enhancing innovations.