HIV/AIDS

The number of Black women diagnosed with HIV has fallen 42 percent (from 2005 - 2014). That means we're making progress. But Black women still have the highest HIV infection rate among women of other races and ethnicities. The HIV infection rate for Black women is nearly 16 times that of White women and 5 times that of Hispanic women. 


Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the immune system and weakens a person’s ability to fight infections. HIV is the infection that can cause Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), a complex set of diseases that occur when the body’s immune system has been weakened. HIV is transmitted through the exchange of blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and breast milk that is infected with HIV.

HIV/AIDS infection among Black women is a complex mix of economic, social, cultural, biological, environmental and behavioral factors. 

  • 1 in 48 Black women is projected to be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime
  • Black women account for 61 percent of all HIV diagnoses among women
  • The stigma associated with HIV stops many Black women, and their partners, from getting tested 
  • Approximately 49 percent of Black women and men diagnosed with HIV are not getting the proper treatment that keeps them healthy and reduces the risk of transmission

 

Source: CDC

So much has been made in the media about the poor health status of Black women that we have become desensitized to the barrage of health statistics and may be tuning out important health messages.  However, this is one health crisis that we cannot ignore.  In addition to shortening our lives, HIV/AIDS is compromising our quality of life and the vitality of our families and communities.

We must take steps to increase awareness and eliminate stigma and stereotypes about HIV/AIDS in order to begin to effectively address the HIV epidemic among Black Women.  The first step to HIV prevention is learning the facts and accepting the reality that any woman who is sexually active is at risk.

  • Having unprotected (not using a male or female condom for vaginal or anal sex; not using a condom, dental dam, or other barrier for oral sex) oral, vaginal or anal sex with an infected person 
  • Sharing needles or syringes of any kind with an infected person
  • Transmitting the virus from an infected mother to her child during pregnancy, birth or through breastfeeding

The only 100% sure way to prevent HIV infection is to abstain from sexual activity and drug use. To abstain means not having vaginal, anal, or oral sex, and not using drugs of any kind.

Beyond that, there are steps we can take to protect ourselves and reduce our risk of becoming HIV infected:

  • Knowing our HIV status by taking an HIV test
  • Discussing HIV testing and practicing safer sex with our partner
  • Practicing safer sex – using protective latex barriers (male or female condoms, dental dams)  for vaginal, anal, and oral sex every time we have sex
  • Using PrEP, pre-exposure prophylaxis, which has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection from sex by 90 percent (Learn more at letstalkaboutprep.com)
  • Not sharing needles of any kind including drug needles, piercing needles, or tattoo needles.

HIV/AIDS is an epidemic in our community and its impact on Black women can no longer go unchecked. The Black Women’s Health Imperative is committed to ensuring that Black women have access to the tools, resources, support and information needed to find solutions and develop interventions that are relevant to the lives of Black women. We are actively engaged in this effort by:

  • 1

    Helping Black women know and understand the truth about HIV transmission and how to protect ourselves from infection

  • 2

    Working to elevate the profile of Black women as a significant part of this epidemic and as key players in identifying effective strategies and solutions

  • 3

    Mobilizing Black women to share their stories and have their voices heard in collective advocacy efforts calling for more targeted resources and funding

  • 4

    Promoting HIV/AIDS awareness to ensure all Black women are empowered to address issues related to the disease in a factually sound and gender-focused manner

  • 5

    Exposing policies and practices that may seek to hinder the sexual and reproductive health rights and choices of Black women

  • 6

    Creating a “national face” of HIV/AIDS and platform through which Black women can have a voice and share their stories about HIV/AIDS


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