By: Sakiera Malone, WE CAN Intern
In support of National HIV Testing Day, WE CAN is bringing awareness to the impacts that HIV has on women of color. Although diagnoses rates have declined among African American women by 25 percent and Latinx by 20 percent in the United States in recent years, both groups of women remain most at risk for contracting HIV.
HIV Diagnoses Among Women in the 50 States and District of Columbia, 2010-2016
Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. NCHHSTP AtlasPlus. Accessed June 21, 2019.
There is still more work to be done to ensure that every woman is an active participant in her health. According to the most recent data (2017), Latinx and African American women account for 16 and 5- percent of new HIV diagnoses respectively. Heterosexual contact accounts for 86 percent of new cases, followed by injection drug use at 14 percent. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the diagnoses of new cases are highest among women ages 25-34, and the most common way that HIV is spread among women is through unprotected sex.
New HIV Diagnoses Among Women in the US and Dependent Areas, 2017
Credit: CDC. Diagnoses of HIV infection in the United States and dependent areas, 2017. HIV Surveillance Report 2018;29.
Additional Details about HIV Among Women of Color
African American Women
Currently, HIV rates are the highest Among African American women. Among the 73% (12,237) of adolescents and adults who were diagnosed in 2017, 26% (4,397) were women, and 1 in 7 African Americans are unaware that they have HIV. Multiple factors contribute to African Americans not receiving treatment. Poverty is a significant barrier which limits access to affordable and high-quality healthcare. Additionally, prevention education, stigma, and discrimination plague this community.
Among the 10,929 Latinas who were diagnosed in 2016, 12% (1,277) were women. Latinas are three times as likely as non-Hispanic white women to die of an HIV infection. The challenges for HIV testing among this group varies from lower educational levels, language barriers, poverty and migration patterns. Undocumented Hispanics/Latinos also face significant challenges in receiving preventative education and testing due to fear of being arrested and deported.
American Indian/Alaskan Native Women
The number of American Indian/Alaskan Natives (AI/AN) living with HIV in the United States is relatively low compared to other races/ethnicities which makes it difficult to gather data about their experience with HIV. As of 2016, there were a total of 3,600 of AI/AN living with HIV and 82% had received a diagnosis. In 2017, 212 AI/AN women were diagnosed with HIV. This population faces several challenges that contribute to them receiving preventative education, testing, and care, including socioeconomic barriers, cultural diversity, and stigma.
Asian American/Pacific Islander Women
Although Asian American/Pacific Islander women don’t experience high rates of HIV, there are some challenges that make it hard to develop preventative care for them. These challenges include limited data due to race/ethnicity misidentification, limited research which contributed to the limited preventative programs and behavioral health interventions. They’re also cultural factors to consider that lead to stigmatization and feeling shame among family.
So, what can you do to protect yourself and others?
First, knowing your HIV status is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself. Practicing safe sex is also essential, as well as knowing the HIV status of any sexual partners. Thursday, June 27th is National HIV Testing Day. Please get tested by visiting your nearest testing site. Additionally, encourage your family and friends to get tested and promote #HIVTestingDay through social media. Let’s work together bring to down the of HIV rates among our sisters and in our communities.
Second, contact your members of Congress and tell them to take proactive steps to ensure that anyone managing an HIV or AIDS diagnosis can have access to critical medications. Last week, one of the nation’s largest drug benefit companies decided to exclude several HIV medicines from its list of drugs eligible for insurance coverage. This means that the 5,066 African American and Latinx women newly diagnosed with HIV may not receive medications that will prevent life-threatening complications from HIV. Likewise, millions living with AIDS could see their disease progress after years of careful management and control.
On this Mobilize Monday, take care of yourself and others living with HIV!