Linda Williams of the Northeast Florida Women's AIDS Alliance (NFWAA) did not let the lower-than-expected turnout at a recent breakfast on the Southside stop her from getting her point across. HIV/AIDS was the leading cause of death for African-American women ages 25-44 in Florida in 2008, the latest state data show. Doing something about it "starts with the people in this room," said Williams.
In Duval County, black women account for 32 percent of the female population but in 2009 represented 76.5 percent of female HIV and 81 percent of female AIDS cases. Williams, who founded NFWAA in April, persuaded Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton this year to declare Aug. 13 as Women's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. But difficulties in funding and resources are forcing Williams to dissolve NFWAA, she said.
HIV/AIDS stigma among black women "has silenced their voices," said Williams, and that is contributing to the community being continually hit.
Higher STD rates, stigmatization, higher incarceration rates for black men, apathy, and lack of awareness all lead to higher HIV/AIDS rates among black females, say experts.
Duval County had nearly 20,000 chlamydia cases, 8,200 gonorrhea cases and approximately 800 syphilis cases from 2007 to 2010, said David Andress, HIV/AIDS program coordinator for the state Department of Health for Area 4, which includes Duval County.
Another factor is the unbalanced number of women in Jacksonville. There are about 11 percent more black women than black men in the city, according to the Legislature's Office of Economic and Demographic Research. A third of the black male population spends time in prison, where HIV rates are higher.