Today, women account for about 1 in 4 new HIV/AIDS cases in the United States. Of these newly infected women, most are African American. And many of these cases are attributed to having unprotected sex with a man.
Some reasons why African-American women are affected by HIV/AIDS more than women of other races include:
- Poverty — 1 in 4 African-American women lives in poverty, which is strongly linked to HIV risk. People living in poverty also get lower-quality health care in general, which can mean advancing from HIV infection to AIDS more quickly
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) — HIV is most commonly spread to women through sexual contact. Untreated STIs that break the skin, such as genital herpes, give HIV easy access into the bloodstream. African-American women have high rates of many STIs.
- The number of people living with HIV (prevalence) in African-American communities and the fact that African-Americans are more likely to have sex with partners of the same race (compared to other groups) means that African-Americans face a greater risk of HIV infection with each new sexual encounter.
- Stigma, fear, discrimination, homophobia, and negative perceptions about HIV testing can also place too many African-American women at higher risk. Many at risk for infection fear stigma more than infection. They may choose instead to hide their high-risk behavior rather than get counseling and testing.
- Lack of awareness of HIV status can affect HIV rates. Approximately 1 in 5 adults and adolescents in the U.S. living with HIV don’t know their HIV status. This translates to about 116,750 persons in the African-American community.
To learn more about testing for HIV or to ask a health question, join the Gaudenzia Connect Facebook Group in the Greater Harrisburg Area.