A couple of days ago, the world celebrated World AIDS Day. The day is an opportunity to speak out about HIV/AIDS, allies who support those living with HIV/AIDS, and honoring those who have passed away. It’s a tricky thing writing about HIV/AIDS and black women. Recently, a friend gave me a TV. I’ve been trying to avoid having a TV. Of course, I’ve been sucked back into the worlds of Maury and Jerry. These shows (especially Maury) survive on paternity tests episodes. The shows usually have black women (and other women of color), running/around acting wild because they supposedly don’t know who their child’s father is. It feeds into the stereotype(s) about black women being sexually irresponsible. It’s because of these images, folks usually don’t have empathy for black women living with HIV/AIDS (read Pearl Cleage’s “What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day” a fictional story about a black woman living with HIV/AIDS).
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HIV infections declined for the first time since 2010 for black women. “In 2010, black women accounted for 6,100 (29%) of the estimated new HIV infections among all adult and adolescent blacks. This number represents a decrease of 21% since 2008. Most HIV infections among black women (87%; 5,300) are attributed to heterosexual sex. The estimated rate of new HIV infections for black women (38.1/100,000 population) was 20 times as high as the rate for white women, and almost five times as high as that of Latinas.”
However, black women still make up a significant amount of new HIV cases. I think a lot of it has to do with the gender imbalance/sexism in the black community. Until black girls/young women/women are genuinely respected/valued in our community (not the fake “black queen” rhetoric), we will continue to have high HIV rates. Black women are dragged unmercifully in mainstream (white folks) media, but sadly we often don’t have safe spaces in the black community either. The images tend to be just as bad, and I think it has warped some black males interactions with us. I remember being on a bus and watching a teenager bop his head as “dirty bitch,” “ho,” etc., came pouring out of his headphones. This can’t be good to listen to this stuff on a daily basis and think one can actually go on to have healthy relationships with their “queens.”
It’s time we starting having frank conversations about sexism/oppression of black girls/women in the black community (e.g. sexual abuse). Trust it would help to elevate some of these HIV cases. Also, we need to give space to the voices of black women/folks living with HIV/AIDS in our community. The stories of these women can be informative/empowering to young black women as they deal with blossoming sexuality/sexual desires.