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On Nat'l Women & Girls' HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, Black Women in Atlanta Disproportionately Affected

SisterLove
SisterLove
March 10, 2024
5 min
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HIV Rates Among Black Women in Atlanta, GA

The rates of HIV among Black women in Atlanta, GA are alarmingly high, with Black women making up almost 60% of all new HIV diagnoses, even though they only make up 32% of the population. Today, for National Women and Girls' HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, we're exploring the intersectional challenges like socioeconomic status, stigma and discrimination in healthcare systems, and structural racism that contribute to this disparity.

While there are many obstacles to improving the high rate of HIV among Black women in Atlanta, a number of local, regional, and national organizations are working to expand access to HIV testing, prevention, and treatment. These efforts include increasing access to PrEP, providing education and resources, and fostering a supportive and inclusive healthcare environment.

What is HIV?

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) attacks the body's immune system, making it difficult for the body to fight infections and other diseases. HIV can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding, as well as through sexual contact and shared needles.

Atlanta generally has exponentially higher incidence rates of HIV than other American cities, with an estimated 1 in 51 persons being HIV-positive, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Another recent study by the Atlanta Department of Public Health showed Black women represented nearly 60% of all new HIV diagnoses in the city in 2019, a rate 1600% higher than white women. This startling disparity highlights the need for action to address the root causes of Atlanta's Black women's sexual health crisis.

Socioeconomic Status and Health

While a variety of social factors contribute to the high rates of HIV among Black women in Atlanta, one of the main determinants of health is socioeconomic status. Black women in Atlanta are far more likely than other ethnic groups to live in poverty and have less access to healthcare, education, and resources. This raises both their risk of contracting HIV and their difficulty in obtaining HIV testing and treatment.

Stigma and Discrimination in Healthcare Systems

The prevalence of stigma and discrimination in healthcare systems is another major factor contributing to the high rates of HIV among Black women in Atlanta, who are 1.5 times more likely to lack health insurance. The situation is also complicated by the lack of education and information about HIV prevention and treatment, which can lead to risky behaviors and increase the likelihood of HIV transmission.

Historical and Cultural Factors

There are also historical and cultural factors that magnify the risk for Black women. Some, for example, may feel pressure to conform to traditional gender roles and may be hesitant to discuss sexual health or use contraception. There may also be a lack of trust in the healthcare system, especially among Black women who have had negative experiences with healthcare providers. Transphobia is also a barrier to access, with many Atlanta transwomen facing stigma or indifference by health service providers.

The History of SisterLove's Fight Against HIV

Motivated by these challenges, SisterLove, Inc., was founded 35 years ago by Dázon Dixon Diallo with a mission to reduce or eliminate the spread of HIV among Black women. Since then, we've offered testing, linkage to care services, and peer counseling to thousands of Black women and girls in the Atlanta area. Our flagship sexual health education program, The Healthy Love Workshop, is rated by the CDC as an approved education-based intervention and has allowed us to teach prevention and safe sex techniques in the areas of the city with the highest rates of transmission. Our Community-Based Research Program centers the lived experience of Black women and marginalized groups in public health research, including scientific research into developing a cure for HIV. And our Policy and Advocacy Program mobilizes legal resources to improve state and federal HIV public health policy.

While we were the first established sexual-and-reproductive-health-focused non-profit in the SouthEast that prioritized Black women, we are not alone in this fight. There are many organizational partners that devote tremendous resources and energy to addressing this crisis, like A Vision 4 Hope, which provide comprehensive HIV care and support services to individuals in the Atlanta area.

PrEP and Other Strategies

Increased access to PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), a medication that can be taken daily to reduce the risk of HIV infection, is another important strategy for addressing the high rates of HIV among Black women in Atlanta. However, it is essential to recognize that PrEP is not a one-size-fits-all solution. The only way to truly make progress against the threat of HIV in our community is to work from the framework of human rights and social justice. This means acknowledging and directly acting against systemic issues like racism, sexism, homelessness, stigma against sex workers, and homophobia/transphobia at every level.

Taking Action

Overall, the high prevalence of HIV among Black women in Atlanta is a serious concern that necessitates immediate action. We can work to reduce the impact of HIV on Black women in Atlanta by addressing social determinants of health such as poverty and discrimination, providing education and resources, and fostering a supportive and inclusive healthcare environment. It is also vital to give Black women autonomy over their health decisions and to provide culturally appropriate resources and care. It will take all of us as a community to address the impacts of this epidemic. If you want to protect and improve Black women's sexual and reproductive health, then become a supporter today. Every $10 you give allows us to buy an at-home HIV self-test kit delivery for someone. Show your support for Black women today.

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