Imperative Calls on Obama Administation to Repond to Rising HIV Infections Among Black Women
An alarming report was recently issued by the District of Columbia HIV/AIDS Administration that 4 percent of Black residents in Washington, D.C., are living with HIV/AIDS. This statistic shines a sobering light on the failure of our nation to adequately address an epidemic that for far too long has taken the lives of Americans.
Approximately, 7 percent of Black men and 3 percent of Black women in the District are infected with HIV. More than half of all HIV infections reported among Black women in D.C. are due to heterosexual contact. Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports 75 percent of all infections among Black women are attributed to heterosexual transmission. Although Black women represent only 12 percent of the total female population, they account for 64 percent of women living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S., and HIV remains a leading cause of death for Black women ages 25 – 34. This disease is destroying the lives of young Black women at an unconscionable rate.
“The new numbers from the District of Columbia are an embarrassing testimony to the fragmented approach that America, the richest country in world, has taken to a public health emergency that is ravaging the lives of Black women across our country,” said Eleanor Hinton Hoytt, president and CEO of the Black Women’s Health Imperative (Imperative).
The disturbing increase in the rates of heterosexual transmission and increased infections among Black women is of special concern to the Imperative. High poverty rates, inadequate access to preventive health care, high incarceration rates of Black men and the limited pool of sexual partners have converged to create a complex set of social relationship dynamics that Black women must navigate.
“We are watching young women in their prime reproductive years die from a disease that is largely preventable. This is unacceptable,” said Hinton Hoytt.
This report underscores the sense of urgency and need for innovative methods that help reduce the disproportionate rates of HIV, sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies among Black women, couples and families – both locally and nationally.
On the heels of the recent FDA approval of the FC2 female condom, a comprehensive strategy to address HIV must be developed to provide all women with a full array of options, including female condoms and investment in research and development for a viable microbicide or topical compound that prevents STIs, including HIV/AIDS.
The Imperative is calling on President Obama and Congress to provide leadership and resources to help communities effectively prevent, detect and treat HIV/AIDS. A coordinated response should include increased funding for culturally appropriate and gender-specific prevention efforts; a commitment to restore the original intent and integrity of the Minority AIDS Initiative; and, support for national- and community-based organizations, who for many years have been on the front lines of the epidemic.
We are also calling on the CDC and other government agencies to make Black women a stand-alone priority population for prevention, outreach and education. In light of the rise in HIV infection among Black women, the federal government must target funding opportunities, programs and education messages to a population that is clearly at risk.
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