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Women and HIV/AIDS

April 23, 2009

hivribbonWhen HIV/AIDS was first reported in 1981, it went through many name changes (of which one was GRID: Gay-related immune deficiency) and was originally associated with homosexual men and was a life sentence. But it is no longer the case: any one can live with HIV as long as they have access to proper medical care, including antiretroviral (ARV) treatment and the disease can affect everybody. Most notably, women are affected by HIV more than men and in the states, African-American and hispanic women account for more than 79% of AIDS cases in the U.S. yet make up less than 25% of women in the U.S.

Biologically, women are twice as likely to contract HIV from heterosexual intercourse than men are (for an explanation see here). But there are other sociological factors at play: gender inequities. A new book entitled,  “Sex Power & Taboo: Gender and HIV in the Caribbean and Beyond” (edited by Dorothy Roberts, Rhoda Reddock, Dianne Douglas, and Sandra Reid)  talks about how black women are more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS than men by studying how the disease affects black men and women in the Caribbean. Dorothy Roberts, one of the editors of the book, explains that

Gender inequities affect women in a number of ways, from engaging in sex for money to putting up with unfaithful husbands because they cannot afford to leave them . . . Even powerful women who wield a lot of influence in their professional lives report they sometimes have difficulty asking men to use a condom.

In addition to biological and sociological reasons, women are at risk for contracting HIV/AIDS because of their lower economic status. Without access and education to medical care and prevention, women are more susceptible to HIV/AIDS. Martha St. Jean, a blogger (and fellow classmate of mine) for the Huffington Post, writes about this in an article called “Black Women and the AIDS Crisis.” St. Jean is right in that “In a country where blacks make up only 12% of the population, we should not be making up 46% of the HIV/AIDS cases. ” At the end of her article, St. Jean declares a possible solution to the problem:

So today, I am urging black women to do more. Get tested; protect yourself. Women need to have a more intensified response to this killer. Let’s not only count on governmental officials to take action. I urge you, my black sister friend to react to this threat as you would to an IED (improvised explosive device) killing your brother, father or son in the Iraqi war. Get as angry as you would at the random killings of our young black men by stray bullets in poverty stricken areas. Get the facts. Get upset and get mobilized.

Many people may be surprised to hear these facts that black women are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS. Unfortunately this is not just a crisis we have in the U.S., it is happening around the world. HIV/AIDS is no longer taboo and this race/gender disparity cannot be acceptable anymore—we must move to discuss and take action amongst all genders and races.

For more info on the Sex Power & Taboo book, click here. For Martha St. Jean’s full article, “Black Women and the AIDS Crisis” here. For more info on women and HIV/AIDS, click here.

One Comment
  1. Biplabi Shrestha permalink
    August 10, 2009 2:49 am

    very informative

Comments are closed.

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