The US Is Failing Black Women With HIV

The face of HIV in the United States has long been white gay men, even though the epidemic has had a devastating and disproportionate impact on Black communities.

This is especially true among women; 60 percent of newly diagnosed cases of HIV in women in 2017 were Black. Yet, Black women’s voices are notoriously absent from the national discourse on HIV.

Largely invisible to a fractured health care system, these women are often breadwinners and matriarchs whose families count on them for support and care.

Treatments to help people who are HIV-positive manage their illness and survive into older age have improved greatly, yet the unique health needs of Black women living and aging with HIV – estimated at about 140,000 – are often ignored.

While many are actively taking medication and receiving care, some do not know their HIV status. After diagnosis, many have difficulties managing their HIV, which can contribute to their other health challenges.

I have been working on collecting oral histories from many older HIV-positive women in the Washington D.C. area, where I live and research. It is my hope that by focusing on the voices of Black women themselves, we as a country are able to better understand the profound impact that HIV has had on Black life.

HIV and Black Americans

Many believe the HIV epidemic in the United States is nearing an end, in part because increased funding, targeted prevention efforts, and better treatment have resulted in drastic reductions in new HIV-positive cases. Even President Trump, in his recent State of the Union address, discussed his goal of ending HIV by 2030. I am an HIV researcher, and I can say this is totally unrealistic, especially for Black Americans.

Despite comprising only 12 percent of the overall U.S. population, Black Americans represent 43 percent of all persons with newly diagnosed HIV and 42 percent of all people living…

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