Why Race Matters: Women and HIV
April 18, 2016
Now that we've outlined some important issues, where do we go from here?
A huge first step is to understand some of the different intersectional experiences women living with HIV may face, so that we can better work together to advocate for one another and ourselves. How do we do that?
- Recognize privilege and use it for change: Remember: Pointing out that privilege exists is not meant to make those who experience privilege feel guilty. Being born with and having privilege is not usually something a person chooses, but using privilege to challenge oppressive systems is a choice. Silence about these systems from those who benefit from them is what keeps them going. Calling out where systems are biased is what challenges them.
- United we stand: The voices of women living with and affected by HIV have long been underrepresented and unheard at decision-making tables. But there is a history to build from in challenging privilege in the HIV community -- most notably, the privilege of doctors and researchers to hold all the knowledge about HIV and deliver it to people living with HIV. We know that people living with HIV have the most information and expertise about living with HIV and what's needed for people living with HIV to live and thrive. Therefore, people living with HIV must be in positions to shape decisions that impact their lives. This is a principle that all people living with HIV can get behind.
- Put those most impacted front and center: Both outside and within our HIV community, people most impacted by racism, patriarchy, class oppression, disability rights violations, homophobia, and other intersecting systems of oppression have the most information about what it is to live under these systems and what is needed to start to take them apart. A gigantic step in challenging privilege is to listen to those who are most impacted by that issue -- and then act on what you have heard.
- Join a community: A Girl Like Me is a diverse online community where women living with HIV form a wide range of experiences share their perspectives and truths. Join us! Learn more about The Well Project and A Girl Like Me. Many other extremely valuable communities of support exist for women -- some online, some within your own local area. The Well Project highlights several impactful organizations in our Partners section. You can also find community and support by browsing the resources in AIDSmap's e-atlas.
- Take action: In the U.S. and around the globe, there are many fantastic advocacy organizations fighting for the rights of people living with HIV at the intersections of gender, race, national origin, income, and more. Below are some examples.
As PWN-USA leaders Vanessa Johnson and Waheedah Shabazz-El put it in a statement on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day 2016: "The HIV epidemic in this country will end when America commits to the underlying conditions which enable HIV to thrive, such as racism and poverty."
* References for table information:
- Risk by Racial/Ethnic Groups (CDC)
- Poverty Rate by Race/Ethnicity (Kaiser Family Foundation)
- Facts for Features: American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month: November 2014 (United States Census Bureau)
- Communities in Crisis: Is There a Generalized HIV Epidemic in Impoverished Urban Areas of the United States? (CDC)
- Architecture of Segregation (The Century Foundation)
- Stigma, HIV/AIDS and Asians & Pacific Islanders (Banyan Tree Project)
- Prevalence and Characteristics of Sexual Violence, Stalking, and Intimate Partner Violence Victimization -- National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, United States, 2011 (CDC)
- The Facts on Violence Against American Indian/Alaskan Native Women (Futures Without Violence)
- White Women and HIV (The Body)
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