C O R R E L A T I O N S A N D T A R G E T S O F T H E
A I D S E P I D E M I C
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) has been a significant problem in Queens, NY for several years. The issue of this epidemic has been pushed under the carpet, and is often not talked about in the largest borough in New York City. Though this epidemic can hit anyone at anytime, there are some significant correlations between AIDS rate and several factors in Queens, including poverty level, race, median income level and surprisingly enough, public transportation. These data suggests that such factors play a role in the high percentages of cumulative AIDS cases in my hometown of Queens, NY. Correlation coefficients are considered effective at the p≤.05 level if the coefficients are at or above 0.254; any number lower than that are considered to insignificant.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), African Americans are five times more likely to acquire the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) than Caucasians. [i] According to the Census Summary File 3, interestingly enough, Queens is comprised of close to 440,000 African Americans who make 43.6% of AIDS cases in the area. [ii] As shown in Graph 1, there is a positive, direct correlation between the percentage of the African American population and the AIDS rate. The higher the percentage of the black population, the higher the AIDS rate will be. One exception to this rule is Springfield Gardens which is home to a large group of Caribbean immigrants mainly Jamaicans, Haitians, and Guyanese. [iii] As shown in Map 1, one of the hardest hit areas is in Jamaica, Queens (zip codes 11432, 11433, 11434, 11435, and 11436) which comprises of 28% of the African American population in Queens. Another hard hit area is West Queens which is comprised of some of the largest African American neighborhoods in the borough; Jackson Heights (zip code11372), Corona (zip code 11368), Elmhurst (11373), Woodside (11377) and Maspeth (11378) which holds more than 5% of the African American population in Queens. As portrayed in figure 8, the correlation between the percentage of African American population and AIDS rate is highly significant with a 0.520 correlation coefficient.
Economic status also plays a role in the main targets of the AIDS epidemic. According to Census Summary File 3, the percentage of those receiving public assistance in 1999 is positively correlated with the AIDS rate in Queens. In Graph 2, the trend line is positive. Furthermore, those receiving the most percentages of public assistant income in households have the highest AIDS rate; zip code 11433 has the second highest cumulative AIDS rate in Queens, having a whopping number of approximately 2,111 out of 100,000 people, about five times the national average rate. It so happens to be that Jamaica, Queens receives a hefty amount of public assistance of close to 9%. As indicated in Map 2, the Far Rockaway area of Queens (zip codes 11691 and 11693) also has an AIDS rate of well above 1,000 out of 100,000 people with residents in the area receiving approximately 21% of public assistance income. (See Figure 3) Public assistance may indicate the low economic situation people are struggling in. If they are not financially stable, then their access to certain public facilities might be limited or may not exist at all. Such facilities include drug-testing centers, rehabs, or community centers to learn ways on how to prevent AIDS and promote a healthy and safe lifestyle. Their lack of information may be another factor in the high AIDS rate because they have nowhere to go to discuss their concerns about the AIDS epidemic. In Table 4, the coefficient correlation between the percentage of public assistant income in households and AIDS rate is greater 0.254 (0.392).
According to the numbers in Census Summary File 3, median income negatively correlates with the cumulative rates of AIDS in Queens, NY. As shown in Graph 3, the lower the median income, the higher the AIDS rate, which is a negative correlation. This trend line suggests that those with higher income have more access to health facilities to test for AIDS and have centers to learn the methods on how to practice safe sex such as rehabs, condemn distribution centers, etc. They are more exposed to the information on AIDS, and they are less exposed to deadly drug dealings that are often associated with the more populated areas in Queens. As shown in Map 3, the areas with the highest incomes have the least number of AIDS cases. Glen Oaks (zip code 11004), for example, has a median family income of $68,507 and the lowest AIDS rate in Queens with a number of approximately 115 out of 100,000 people. Glen Oaks is a one of the wealthier areas in Queens, with a low crime rate and an education district often ranked best in New York City. Such an education system is beneficial because students might be taught in a better environment in better health classes. Additionally, these people might not engage in high risk behaviors that increase their chances of acquiring HIV. They also own their property with 110 acres of land and 2,904 “garden style apartments” which suggests that they are more privileged than other areas in Queens. [iv]
With the numbers from Census Summary File 3, a positive correlation exists between the percentages of those under poverty level in 1999 and AIDS rate as portrayed in Graph 4. As indicated in Map 4, those areas with people under poverty level also showed a high AIDS rate. The term “poverty level/line” is considered to be ambiguous and unclear. However, according to The United States Department of Health and Human Services, “One Version of the U.S. Federal Poverty Measure” the poverty level is defined in figure 5.
FIGURE 5: 2005 HHS Poverty Guidelines
Persons in Family Unit
48 Contiguous States and D.C.
For each additional
A hypothesis for this occurrence is that the majority of people under the poverty level are more likely out in the streets where they are often exposed to drug-related activity to support themselves. Many are probably frequent drug users who share needles and have unprotected sex. These poverty ridden areas is a possible explanation for the high AIDS rate because their residents are out in the streets as intravenous drug users (IDUs) which account for 35.5% of all AIDS cases in Queens. [v] The zip codes with the highest percentage of households Springfield Gardens (zip code 11413) and Long Island City (zip code 11101) where the AIDS rate is more than five times the national AIDS rate of approximately 339. This correlation should make sense because it would be expected that those under poverty level would receive public assistant income, and both have positive correlations. However, even with public assistant many families are still below the poverty line. Shown in Table 4, the correlation between the percentage of those under poverty level and AIDS rate is significant with a correlation coefficient of 0.507; greater than 0.254.
Surprisingly, public transportation also correlates with the high AIDS rate. My initial hypothesis was that people who use the subways and buses would be more exposed to the posters and advertisements about the AIDS epidemic. Apparently, this is not the case. According to Graph 5 and Census Summary File 3, the higher the percentage of people using public transportation in 2000 the higher the AIDS rate. Jamaica, Queens is a heavily populated area and a place where public transportation is used, and is also where the AIDS epidemic has affected the most. In the areas of Whitestone, Bayside, Glen Oaks and Oakland Gardens they have a higher median income of well over $60,000 a year, which indicates their ability to afford a car and thus use less public transportation. In fact, according to Map 5, the areas of Whitestone (zip code 11357), Bayside (zip code 11360 and 11361), Glen Oaks (zip code 11004), and Oakland Gardens (zip code 11364) account for only about 2% of the total percentage of people who use public transportation. Additionally, they simply might not be able to afford a car because they are living below the poverty line. Those who use public transportation might not be able to afford a car, let alone proper and adequate health care. Another explanation for this correlation may be because people who use public transportation are from urban areas such as New York City and Boston. According to my statistics and the top ten states reporting the highest number of cases, which include states with huge metropolitan cities such as New York City and Los Angeles, I believe that the AIDS epidemic hits the urban cities more than the rural and suburban areas of the country. Furthermore, public transportation systems are more associated with urban, metropolitan areas rather than suburban or rural areas, thus the large number of cases.
Household size always plays a role in the high number of AIDS rate. As indicated in Graph 6, households with more than seven people have a higher AIDS rate. As shown in Graph 6, there is a positive correlation between the household size in 2000 greater than seven and the AIDS rate. According to Map 6, Jamaica, Hollis and Far Rockaway (zip codes 11433, 11423 and 11691) have household sizes greater than seven and have an AIDS rate of over 1,000 out of 100,000 people. This may be due to the unhealthy conditions people are living in. This also suggests that they are resorted to cramped, small apartments because they are under poverty level and cannot afford a bigger, spacious place due to their low median income. Additionally, being in such close quarters is very unhealthy and most of the apartments that hold a large amount of people in small spaces are in the poorer areas in Queens. Furthermore, the percentage of unmarried partner households in 2000 also positively correlates with the high AIDS cases in Queens, as shown in Graph 7. These unmarried partners might be males living with males since gay marriage has not yet been legalized in New York. Male to male sexual contact, in fact, accounts for 27.90% of the cumulative AIDS cases in Queens. [vi] Therefore, male to male sexual contact and partnership households may explain the significant number of unmarried couples in Queens. Also, unmarried households may suggest that the two parents are split up. Thus, a child may not be as aware of the AIDS epidemic as other children are. They have no one to talk to because the single parent is always working and do not have time to discuss sexually transmitted diseases; communication is often key and a lack of it may lead to wrong choices in life.
Initially, my scatter plots included East Elmhurst (zip code 11370) which has an AIDS rate of 3613. However, East Elmhurst was the only point that did not agree with all the other points on the scatter plot, thus, it was taken out to further understand the main correlations for other areas in Queens, NY. After further research, I have come to the conclusion that the reason why East Elmhurst was so off in the scatter plots was because it is located in Community Board 3 which is patrolled by the New York Police Department's 115th Precinct. This means that East Elmhurst has a high crime rate, though the crime rate has been decreasing; only three murders were recorded for 2005. Such crimes that are currently present in significant numbers in East Elmhurst are murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, and grand larceny which explain the extremely high AIDS rate in the area. [vii] Because of the high crime rate, prisoners are often more likely to deal with drugs and engage in unprotected sexual activities. Due to the crime rate and the impoverished conditions in East Elmhurst, the AIDS rate is literally off the charts.
These factors are the selected few that are discussed in this paper. There are undoubtedly more reasons that contribute to the AIDS percentages in Queens because it is one of the hardest hit boroughs in New York City. More attention should be paid to the serious AIDS epidemic otherwise this crisis will continue to ravage humanity. What can be done to decrease the devastating effects of this epidemic; what are some of the solutions to this problem?
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