amfAR Study Shows How White Counties Have Lower Rates of COVID-19, HIV

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Study shows that primarily white counties in the U.S. have the fewest cases of COVID-19 irrespective of geographic region, political inclination or before/after re-opening the economy

NEW YORK, NEW YORK, August 12, 2020 — An analysis released today by amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, shows how disproportionately white counties in the U.S. have consistently lower rates of COVID-19 and HIV. Residential segregation, structural racism and social determinants of health were noted as key factors driving diagnoses in nonwhite communities. 

amfAR researchers used Census data and divided counties across the U.S. by quintiles according to the proportion of white residents. The investigative team found that COVID-19 diagnoses decline across U.S. counties as the proportion of white residents increases. Even during the recent COVID-19 epidemic surge across the South and West, infections remained lowest in counties with the highest proportion of white residents, whereas declining rates of COVID-19 in the Northeast and Midwest were mainly driven by the decline in cases among more racially diverse counties. Most notably, COVID-19 diagnoses have remained low and stable throughout the entirety of the COVID-19 crisis (before and after re-opening) in Northeastern and Midwestern counties with the greatest concentrations of white residents.

The study was published in the medical journal, AIDS Patient Care and STDs. Data from the study and a range of associated charts and graphs can be found at

The study follows a CDC report published on August 7, 2020, which found that Black and Latino children are more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19. With schools reopening nationally, the amfAR study suggests that comparatively higher COVID-19 diagnoses in non-white counties place youth and adults in those counties at greater risk for infection.

“Neither luck nor genetics keep COVID-19 diagnoses lower in mainly white counties and higher in primarily non-white counties,” said amfAR VP and Director of Public Policy Greg Millett. “Adapting programmatic and policy interventions that have worked for HIV may help, but the historic legacy of residential segregation and redlining will have an enduring effect on health disparities until we decide to fix it.”

The report recommends scaling up testing in communities at highest risk by making rapid tests available, along with wraparound services such as transportation to healthcare, mental health counseling and insurance navigation. It also recommends expanding Medicaid to increase healthcare access in lower income communities, which are vulnerable both to COVID-19 and to higher levels of unemployment in the current economic downturn.

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 more than $575 million in its programs and has awarded more than 3,300 grants to research teams worldwide.