A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report highlights the critical need for improvement in tackling the HIV epidemic among African Americans.

Publishing their findings in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report to mark National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, which is February 7, researchers examined National HIV Surveillance System data through 2015 on African Americans 13 years of age or older in 33 jurisdictions with complete laboratory reporting.

The jurisdictions include 65.3 percent of Blacks living with diagnosed HIV through the end of 2013. The sample may not be nationally representative.

Forty-four percent of annual HIV diagnoses in the United States are among Blacks.

Looking at the 12,269 Blacks diagnosed with HIV in the 33 jurisdictions in 2014, the researchers found that 21.9 percent already had AIDS (otherwise known as HIV stage 3) when they were diagnosed, indicating that they had likely been living with the virus for many years by then. A total of 71.6 percent of the overall group were linked to medical care for the virus within one month of diagnosis.

Out of 257,316 African Americans diagnosed with HIV in the jurisdictions through 2012 who were still living at the end of 2013, 53.5 percent were in consistent medical care for the virus and 48.5 percent had a fully suppressed viral load.

African Americans with the lowest rates of being in care for HIV and having an undetectable viral load included those who were listed as having contracted the virus through injection drug use and males listed as having contracted the virus through sex with women. Blacks younger than 35 were less likely to be linked to care, remain in care consistently and have an undetectable viral load than African Americans older than 35.

To read the CDC report, click here.