CDC says infection rates for Black women rival sub-Saharan Africa

caines | 3/15/2012, 5 a.m.

Poor Black women hit hardest by HIV/AIDS

HIV rates for Black women in many of the nations urban communities are much higher than previously estimated raising even more concern about the welfare of Black America in general and the health of Black women in particular. Thats according to a report just released by the Centers for Disease Control [CDC]. The study, conducted by the HIV Prevention Trials Network, reveals that the current rate of HIV incidence in the U.S. is five times higher than the CDC believed. That rate is comparable to numbers in several countries in sub-Saharan Africa including the Congo and Kenya. The disturbing news comes on the heels of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, celebrated every year in the U.S. on March 10th. Women are 50 percent of the U.S. population and 23 percent of the new HIV infections of those newly-infected, Black women account for 57 percent of all cases, said Vanessa Mills, executive director, Empower U, Inc., the only HIV/AIDS organization in Miamis Liberty City founded and managed by Blacks who are themselves living with HIV/AIDS. Our community has the largest viral load of any ethnic group and because we tend to date within our own race, it makes sense that our numbers are rising faster than any other group. Mills, 56, who has lived with HIV/AIDS since 1991, says that women must take greater responsibility for their own health and lives. Black women must organize if we want to survive, she said. Black women have to collectively decide that we are not going to get infected and bring other women along with us. Education is key but after we inform our sisters, daughters and mothers, we have to educate our sons, brothers and husbands. If we want to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS, we have to begin to talk about this disease as a matter of fact around the dinner table and everywhere else. And we have to include everyone in that conversation women, men, straight and gay.

CDC launches campaign to stem HIV crisis

The CDC recently unveiled a new initiative, Take Charge, Take the Test, aimed at increasing HIV testing and awareness among Black women. The campaign features a website and community outreach. So far, 10 cities are included in the program but more will be added soon, says Dr. Kevin Fenton, M.D., director, CDC National Center for HIV/AIDS. If things remain unchanged, nearly 1-in-30 Black women will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime. We must remind Black women that they have the power to learn their HIV status, protect themselves and take charge of their health, he said. Fort Lauderdale is the closest target city to Miami; other cities in the campaign include Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Memphis and Detroit. One-fourth of those who are HIV-positive in the U.S. dont even know it, said Dazon Dixon Diallo, founder and president of SisterLove, Inc., a community-based prevention/intervention organization in Atlanta that targets Black women. Women must begin to talk to their sexual partners so they know their status and must practice safer behaviors or not have sex at all. These are the only options if we want to protect ourselves. This new CDC campaign is a bold response to the critical epidemic of HIV/AIDS that will not only raise awareness but point the way to available resources in our communities.