By Chris Levister
Special to the NNPA from Black News Voices
To combat the high toll of HIV and AIDS among Black women in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has launched Take Charge. Take the Test., a new campaign to increase HIV testing and awareness among African-American women.
The campaign which features advertising, a website and community outreach was launched in conjunction with National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in 10 cities where Black women are especially hard-hit by the disease.
According to CDC, Black women account for approximately 60 percent of all new HIV infections among women. African-American women have a new infection rate 15 times that of White women. “At current rates, nearly one in 30 African-American women will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetimes,” said Dr. Kevin Fenton,director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention. “To help reduce this toll we are working to remind Black women that they have the power to learn their HIV status, protect themselves from this disease, and take charge of their health.”
The ads feature images of African-American women and messages such as “You Know Him. But You Can’t Know Everything” and “You Feel as if You’ve Known Him Forever, but that Doesn’t Mean You Know Everything.” Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention (DHAP), said a goal is to extend the campaign to more US cities.
Research shows that Black women are no more likely than women of other races to engage in risky behaviors. But a range of social and environmental factors put them at greater risk for HIV infection. These include higher prevalence of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections in some Black communities, which increase the likelihood of infection with each sexual encounter.
Limited access to health care can prevent women from getting HIV tested. Research also shows that financial dependence on male partners may limit some women’s ability to negotiate safe sex. HIV stigma, far too prevalent in all communities, may also discourage Black women from seeking HIV testing.
“All of us have a role to play in stopping the spread of HIV among Black women — by talking to our sisters, daughters, husbands, and boyfriends about how to protect ourselves against HIV and the importance of getting tested; by speaking out against stigma; and by tackling the social inequities that place so many of us at risk for HIV,”said Donna Hubbard McCree, PhD, associate director for health equity at DHAP.
Study: HIV rates for Black women higher than previously thought HIV infection rates among Black women in some parts of the United States are similar to the incidence seen in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a report presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle.
The study found a rate of HIV infection of 0.24% in a group of almost 2,100 women, most of whom were Black. That rate is five times higher than previous estimates issued by the federal government.
The high infection rate was found in six geographic areas that are known to be hard hit by the HIV epidemic and where poverty is more common.