African-American women are more likely to be infected with HIV than other women, and many don’t know it. So public health officials and advocates are trying to get the word out about PrEP, pre-exposure prophylaxis. It’s a daily medication that helps prevent HIV infection.
According to the CDC, African-American women make up 62 percent of women diagnosed with HIV in the U.S. White women account for 18 percent, with Latinas at 14 percent. McCray says the CDC is planning in the upcoming months to produce campaigns targeted at black women that educate them on their risk and how PrEP can be used as a preventive measure.
Women in the nation’s capital face a higher risk because about 2 percent of residents are already infected with HIV, making exposure more likely. In addition, Blout says, social issues like incarceration and poverty tend to increase the risk of HIV within the black community. In addition, Blout also says there is a lack of empowerment among black women to ask their partners to either get tested or wear a condom. McCray agrees. “Many women do not know the status of their partners and they are weary of asking them to get tested,” he says.
“A lot of the issue has to do with misinformation or simply not being informed at all,” says Nancy Mahon, executive director of the MAC AIDS Fund, which is providing financial support for the effort. “When it comes to PrEP, many people still don’t even know it exists, especially heterosexuals. Many black women we’ve spoken to felt puzzled about why we were addressing how this drug is available to them. A component of the issue is that the drug is hard to obtain without a doctor.”
One of the challenges in getting women educated about PrEP is that primary care providers such as OB-GYNs often aren’t aware of it. That problem is compounded with low-income patients who don’t always get regular doctor visits and preventive care.
Read more on BlackAIDS.org.