Black Women and HIV

Folks were shocked when Charlie Sheen confirmed his HIV status. I don’t know why. HIV/AIDS is still wrecking havoc in this country, despite the diminished attention given to the issue over the years. Women of color, Black women in particular, are the majority of new HIV cases. Yet, their plight has been virtually ignored in mainstream media.

“Every 35 minutes, a woman tests positive for HIV in this country.  Yet the impact of HIV among Black women and girls is even more startling.  Nationally, Black women account for 66% of new cases of HIV among women.  HIV/AIDS related illness is now the leading cause of death among Black women ages 25-34. As the national dialogue focuses on strategies for addressing the HIV epidemic in this country, the need is greater than ever for a heightened among Black women in HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and care.” http://www.bwhi.org/issues-and-resources/black-women-and-hiv-aids

A lot of these cases tend to be attributed to heterosexual relationships. It has been argued, due to our patriarchal society, women tend to be pressured to bend to the sexual whims of men and/or forgive infidelity, numerous sex partners, etc.  This imbalance of power in intimate/sexual relationships between men and women make women more vulnerable to getting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Alice Keys has been one of the few celebrities who continues to put a spotlight on the experiences of women/women of color living with HIV.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

This past weekend marked the 20th anniversary of The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA):

“The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA) is a United States federal law (Title IV, sec. 40001-40703 of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, H.R. 3355) signed as Pub.L. 103–322 by President Bill Clinton on September 13, 1994 (codified in part at 42 U.S.C. sections 13701 through 14040). The Act provides $1.6 billion toward investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, imposes automatic and mandatory restitution on those convicted, and allows civil redress in cases prosecutors chose to leave un-prosecuted.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violence_Against_Women_Act

The issue of domestic violence (DV) has been in the media (as of late) due to the cases of Ray Rice, Greg Oden, Floyd Mayweather, and others. And I’m sure more will cases will be popping up.

Some Black folks feel that men of color are being unfairly used as the face of DV. Probably. But if these men kept their hands to themselves they wouldn’t be such easy targets. However, I agree white abusers like Charlie Sheen, Mel Gibson, Sean Penn, etc., have been protected by the media.

In any case, Black folks shouldn’t worry about what white folks are doing with their abusers, we only need to be concerned with what our community does with ours. DV is not more prevalent in the Black community. But due to a complicated history with the criminal justice system and already negative stereotypes about Black men, the Black community is leery about speaking about this issue in public. Black women, in particularly, don’t want to be seen as disloyal to the community or “getting another brother locked up.”

The issue of combating DV is complex in the Black community. I hope to write more about this in October for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

There have been many discussions specifically about the Ray Rice case.  I was most moved by a recent interview with actor Terry Crews. Crews spoke about growing up as a child in a DV home. We need more men of color to speak about their experiences with DV, as well as speak out for women and children.