amfAR Study Shows Disproportionate Impact of COVID-19 on Black Americans


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Disproportionately black counties, mostly in the Southern U.S., have significantly higher rates of infection and mortality

NEW YORK, NEW YORK, May 5, 2020 — Study results released today by amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, show how disproportionately black counties in the U.S. are bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic. The study compared COVID-19 cases and deaths in disproportionately black counties, which account for roughly one in five counties and 13% of the population, to all other U.S. counties.    

Data were collected on April 13 when there were 547,390 COVID-19 diagnoses nationally and 21,634 deaths. The study clearly showed that COVID-19 diagnoses and deaths increased in counties with a greater proportion of black residents. While disproportionately black counties constitute only 22% percent of U.S. counties, they account for 52% and 58% of COVID-19 cases and deaths, respectively.

Among its findings, the amfAR study also found that 97% of disproportionately black counties had at least one COVID-19 diagnosis compared to only 80% of all other counties and that 49% of black counties had at least one COVID-19 death compared to 28% of all other counties.  COVID-19 diagnoses were found to be greater in disproportionately black counties, whether urban or rural and irrespective of size. Ninety-one percent of disproportionately black counties are located in the Southern U.S.

Data from the study and a range of associated charts and graphs can be found at

“Many people have observed large and consistent disparities in COVID-19 cases and deaths among black Americans, but these observations have largely been anecdotal or have relied on incomplete data,” said amfAR VP and Director of Public Policy Greg Millett, the study’s lead investigator. “This analysis proves that county-level data can be used to gauge COVID-19 impact on black communities to inform immediate policy actions.”

In other findings, people in disproportionately black counties with high levels of uninsured people and crowded households were at increased risk for acquiring COVID-19. Underlying health problems that may interact with COVID-19 acquisition and death (e.g., diabetes, hypertension and heart disease) tended to be more prevalent in disproportionately black counties, but greater COVID-19 cases and deaths were still observed in those counties when adjusting for these factors.

A range of social conditions such as being uninsured or unemployed, household crowding, poor air quality, and reduced ability to practice social distancing also tended to be more common in disproportionately black counties.

“These study results arise from more than health system shortcomings,” said Millett. “Greater efforts are needed to eliminate structural racism and address broader social, environmental, economic, and other inequities. And additional analyses exploring disparities in COVID-19 among Latino, Native American and other populations are needed.”

The study was led by researchers at amfAR and Emory University Rollins School of Public Health. The study team also included investigators from Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University; the Center for Vaccine Innovation and Access at PATH; the John D. Bower School of Public Health at the University of Mississippi; and the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University. 

About amfAR
amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, is one of the world’s leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to the support of AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and advocacy.  Since 1985, amfAR has invested nearly $575 million in its programs and has awarded more than 3,300 grants to research teams worldwide.