Colorado: Haven for HIV-Positive Women
October 30, 2007
Aurora-based It Takes a Village (ITV) offers HIV counseling and support to groups hard-hit by HIV/AIDS in Colorado, particularly African-American women and African immigrants.
According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 20 percent of the 306 newly reported HIV cases in the fiscal year ending June 30 were among blacks, who comprise less than 4 percent of the state's population. The AIDS rate among black Coloradoans is six times higher than for white residents. While women of all ethnic and racial backgrounds are the fastest-growing risk group for HIV/AIDS, black women are 31 times more likely to acquire HIV than white women, the agency reports.
ITV's executive director, Imani Latif, said reasons for the disparity are many. She cited the disproportionate rate of black men in prisons, calling them a "breeding ground for HIV." A 2006 Colorado Justice Reform Coalition report shows that blacks comprised more than 20 percent of the state's prison population.
IV drug users and men who are "on the down low," or secretly have sex with other men, also contribute to the infection rate for women, said Latif. Another reason, she said, is what ITV terms the "Denzel factor," referring to Denzel Washington, the dashing black actor. "It's that person who is so attractive and irresistible [that] we're willing to take risks," she said.
Latif said discussing the "Denzel factor" is one way to make the HIV prevention message relevant to ITV's clients. She stressed the organization's non-judgmental philosophy. "We have some of the women who stroll Colfax [Ave.] come in for condoms. It's like, 'I know you turn tricks on Colfax, but come on in for a cup of coffee,'" she said.
Rocky Mountain News
10.30.2007; Fernando Quintero
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.