Fort Worth Star-Telegram Looks at HIV/AIDS Among Black Women
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram beginning on Sunday published a series examining HIV/AIDS in the black community. Seven of the 10 states with the highest rate of HIV cases are in Southern states, where the disease is "ravaging" the black community, particularly women, the Star-Telegram reports. Overall, blacks comprise 13% of the U.S. population but account for nearly 50% of the more than one million HIV cases in the U.S., the Star-Telegram reports. Black women account for about two-thirds of the 127,000 women with HIV nationwide.
AIDS activists say the high number of HIV cases among black women can be attributed to various reasons, including a lack of single black men, poor self-esteem and drug abuse. Racism, low education and poverty also make the group more "vulnerable" to the disease, Vera Owens, a minister with the Los Angeles-based Minority AIDS Project, said. An unbalanced sex ratio because of black men's high rate of incarceration, in addition to the high mortality rate attributable to homicide, disease and other factors, also puts black women at a disadvantage, Carla Stokes, an AIDS activist and founder of the not-for-profit Helping Our Teen Girls in Real Life Situations, said.
As of June 2007, 39% of inmates were black men nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Seventeen percent of people living with HIV were incarcerated at some point, the Star-Telegram reports. HIV is four times more common in prisons than in the general public, according to the Stop Prisoner Rape organization.
Stokes added that negative stereotypes of black women in pop culture exacerbate the issue. Furthermore, many people living with HIV do not follow a medication regimen in large part because of lack of insurance or fear of side effects. HIV-positive prison inmates have access to treatment, but many refuse it because they are afraid they will be targeted by other inmates, Jeffrey Green, a public health official who works with newly released inmates, said.
Support groups and outreach programs -- such as "Sista to Sista" in Fort Worth, Texas -- help black women face the disease and address related issues. Owens said that "really what is happening doesn't have anything to do with race." Daphne Myles, executive director of the Tarrant County AIDS Interfaith Network in Fort Worth, added, "If you have $20 in your pocket, are you going to spend it on entertainment or a box of condoms? For a lot of people, condoms are at the bottom of their list" (Jarvis, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 8/3).
The complete "AIDS: Living with HIV" series is available online.