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Why Are Black Women at Higher Risk of HIV?

In the United States, one in five HIV infections occurs among women, and most of them are in the black community, according to HIV Prevention Services for Harris Health System.

The Woman Post | Carolina Rodríguez Monclou

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Dr. Charlene Flash, HIV Specialist and Deputy Medical Director of HIV Prevention Services for Harris Health System in Houston, says that “although black women infected with HIV have fewer sexual partners and are more likely to use condoms than women white women are at greater risk because there is more HIV in the communities with which they copulate."

African American men are 6 times more likely to be diagnosed, while Hispanic men are 3 times more likely to be positive.

Global Citizen reports that the US government has set a goal of ending the HIV epidemic by 2030. Still, more than one million people in the US are living with HIV and one in seven does not know its status.

The stigma associated with the virus deters people from getting tested and can prevent people from getting treatment in a timely manner. Antiretroviral treatments have turned HIV into a chronic disease.

Also read: A Practice that Brings Harmony to Our Lives

A person living with HIV, who is receiving prescribed treatment and has an undetectable viral load, has practically no risk of transmitting HIV through sexual intercourse.

African Americans continue to carry the largest burden of HIV in the nation. For black women between 30 and 40 years old, HIV is the main cause of death. Many young black men in the US will be infected before their 25th birthday, and it is young black gay and bisexual men who continue to be the hardest hit by HIV with new infections rising sharply.

Stigma and social determinants of health

For gay, bisexual, or straight black men, factors such as racism, homophobia, poverty, and HIV-related stigma, such as social impacts, can have very detrimental effects on the health of these men and their partners.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are many reasons, such as lack of information and access to healthcare. Still, stigma makes people fearful of being HIV-positive.

African American civil rights organizations and churches led the movement for equality in the 1960s but were slow to join the campaign against HIV in this community. Meanwhile, US health agencies are working to spread the word that HIV is preventable, that testing is essential, and that HIV is not a death sentence.

The website AIDS.gov says: "Unless the course of the epidemic changes, at some point in their lives, it is estimated that one in 16 black men and one in 32 black women will be diagnosed with HIV infection."

These rates are at least eight times higher than those of whites, according to Voa News.

Dr. Charlene Flash concludes: "If you are in a community where there is a lot of HIV and you don't know it, the chances of you contracting it are higher." She adds: "If we continue to think of HIV as something that only occurs in those communities, then we will not get tested because you will say, oh, that's not me," however, she recommends that everyone gets tested to make sure, go to timely treatment and avoid future consequences.

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