Virginia: If You Are a Black Woman, Janet Hall Has Something to Tell You
June 28, 2007
Janet Hall lists attributes she once thought put her at low risk for HIV infection: female, straight, college-educated, homeowner, financially stable, accountant, and saleswoman. But when she was diagnosed three years ago, Hall became part of the growing number of US black women with HIV. By 2006, nearly 25 percent of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses in Hampton Roads were among black women.
"I was angry at myself for trusting," said Hall. "For not asking the questions. For not having safe sex in a world of viruses. For trusting in an untrustworthy world." Hall decided if sharing her story could save others from being infected, she would do so.
"I think you always have to have the brave few to raise their hands up," said Dr. Edward Oldfield III, director of infectious-disease division at Eastern Virginia Medical School. "Once people see them, they have more courage. We need people like that to turn the epidemic around." In about 25 years of treating HIV/AIDS, Oldfield said he has seen the demographics of the epidemic shift, but "What I have not seen change is the stigma."
Nationally, the peer-group SISTA (Sisters Informing Sisters on the Topic of AIDS) is helping educate and empower black women about HIV/AIDS. And CDC's WILLOW (Women Involved in Life Learning from Other Women) campaign teaches black women how to distinguish healthy from unhealthy relationships.
06.24.2007; Elizabeth Simpson