(CNN) -- More African-Americans diagnosed with HIV are living.

A report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found an 18% drop in the number of deaths among African-Americans infected with HIV from 2008 to 2012.

That is a consistent and promising decline, and yet it still means 8,165 African-American HIV patients lost their lives in 2012, a marked disparity that accounts for nearly half of the 17,166 teens and adults with HIV who died in total that year.

Most black HIV patients who died were men who contracted the virus through sexual contact with other men.

"We cannot drop our guard," Dr. Eugene McCray, director of the CDC's division of HIV/AIDS prevention, said in a statement. "HIV is still a serious crisis in our communities. Even though we represent only 12% of the population, more than a third of people living with HIV in the United States are black. And new infections among young, gay black men are increasing at an alarming rate."

While HIV testing is increasing among African-Americans, new infections are still diagnosed less frequently in blacks compared with whites, the CDC said.

The agency also said black HIV patients are less likely to be linked to medical care than any other race. McCray said providing that care and treatment could do more than anything else to keep HIV patients alive and prevent new infections.

The report comes just two days before National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, on February 7, which aims to reduce new infections by encouraging HIV testing.

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