Oakland, Calif. -- Nearly thirty years into the HIV epidemic, AIDS continues to be a leading cause of death for Black women and men who have sex with men, despite the availability of life-saving treatment.
African-American women alone account for 65% of new AIDS diagnoses among women, though Black women make up only 12% of the overall U.S. female population. And data continues to show that nearly half of Black gay and bisexual men are living with HIV. These high rates of incidence are no coincidence but part of larger structural patterns of discrimination and inequality, say HIV experts.
"Until things change, I will continue to say that it is totally unacceptable for AIDS to be the number one cause of death among young African American women. We need to stop hiding that fact," says Loren Jones, an HIV-positive woman and co-chair of the Positive Women's Network's national policy workgroup.
An article published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases last week showed that women of color, especially Black women, in the Southern U.S., had significantly worse health outcomes from HIV than other populations living with HIV in the U.S. The study found that Black women in the South were less likely to begin HIV treatment and pointed to the fact that Black women and men continue to have the highest rates of morbidity and mortality from HIV of any population in the U.S.
Hadiyah Charles, PWN Steering Committee Advisor, states "For African American women who are living with HIV, the disease is part of a larger problem which includes a lack of access to quality healthcare overall -- including support for mental health services, our sexual and reproductive health, and freedom from violence. In an era where HIV is preventable and treatable, these shocking statistics on Black women demand a national strategy to prevent HIV among Black women and to ensure women living with HIV receive high-quality care."