HIV/AIDS is killing Black women, and there’s no softer way to put it. The disease is the leading cause of death of Black women, ages 25-34 in the United States. As part of that group, it hits home even more.
Today is the 12th National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, and it’s an opportunity for us to recognize the impact HIV is having on the Black community as a whole. For me, it’s a chance to reflect on how we can beat AIDS and take our power back from it, especially us women.
Black women are half of new HIV infections among all populations of women in the United States, and we’re more than 21 times as likely to die from it as our white counterparts. The epidemic is claiming more of our lives than heart disease and cancer, but is easier to prevent so I wonder why we haven’t gotten a grip on it.
According to the Center for Disease Control, what’s contributing to Black women’s HIV infection rates is the fact that a quarter of us live in poverty. We don’t get access to good healthcare, which means we’re getting tested less. By the time a lot of us find out our HIV status, we receive an AIDS diagnosis soon after.
Also, the incarceration of African American men at higher rates than other racial groups adds to the problem. Being in jail exposes men to risk factors of HIV, so when they’re released, they have an increased rate of passing it on to female partners. The main way Black women contract HIV is through high risk sex with men, so girlfriends, wives and others are being infected every day.
In addition to this, we have higher rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in general. This makes us even more susceptible to HIV, because untreated, they leave have breaks in our skin, ready to accept the virus.
There are so many things contributing to why HIV is affecting and infecting Black women at such high rates, but we really need to act against them. Condom use is the extremely effective band-aid to a massive problem. We need to take our power back by taking proper care of our bodies as well as we take care of everyone else. When we’re sick, it affects everything around us. Not only can we not afford it but we also don’t deserve it.
So on this Black AIDS Day, I ask that we get tested and really own our bodies. We’ve got to empower each other because we deserve care and lives well-lived. We can have candid conversations with our partners, and find resources to allow us to get better care. Stigma has no place where our health is concerned.
The face of HIV is no longer White gay men, nor men on the “DL”. It’s all of us.
Luvvie is a writer, social media strategist and Red Pump Rocker, who blogs at Awesomelyluvvie.com. You can follow her on Twitter @luvvieig and like her on Facebook.
To get tested, everyone can go to HIVtest.org to find a testing site near them. Uninsured or low on money? Some places offer testing free of charge.