Will Obama’s AIDS Plan Reach Out to Black Women?

In Obama's new HIV/AIDS plan, it's crucial to channel resources into research, prevention, education and treatment for the most vulnerable.

By Michelle Chen Jul 14, 2010

As we reported yesterday, the White House has issued its national plan for addressing the HIV/AIDS crisis, presenting an unprecedented strategy for restraining the spread of infection and allocating sorely lacking treatment resources.

Recognizing how HIV/AIDS has evolved and expanded its scope over the past generation, the Obama administration has vowed address demographic disparities in the epidemic. The official document flags many groups that have been especially hard hit, including "gay and bisexual men of all races and ethnicities, Black men and women, Latinos and Latinas," along with drug users and "people in geographic hot spots" like the South and Puerto Rico.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Black women have suffered disproportionately from HIV/AIDS.

— "Black women account for the majority of new AIDS cases among women (66% in 2007); white and Latina women account for 17% and 15% of new AIDS cases, respectively.
— ‘Black women represent more than a third (36%) of AIDS cases diagnosed among Blacks (Black men and women combined) in 2007; by comparison, white women represent 15% of AIDS cases diagnosed among whites in 2007.’

While the HIV/AIDS crisis has historically been associated with urban white gay men, the new emerging face of AIDS in America belongs to a Black woman. Health and Human Services reports, "AIDS is now the leading cause of death for African-American women ages 25-34. And African-American women are more than 21 times as likely to die from HIV/AIDS as non-Hispanic white women." Exposure to infection is typically through unprotected sex with men, but underlying factors may range from poverty and inadequate health care to the mass incarceration of Black men.

Amid popular misconceptions, like the overplayed "down low" myth–and at a time when adults of all races are reporting decreasing concern about HIV/AIDS–it’s incumbent on the White House to channel resources into research, prevention, education and treatment for the most vulnerable. Combined with community-based campaigns to raise awareness, comprehensive federal support could also help alleviate of the structural causes that have formed a perfect storm for Black America.

For a crisis in which Black women are so starkly overrepresented, Obama now has a chance to ensure that they’re fairly represented in the national effort to confront the crisis.

Photo: Tasha Does Tulsa via Flickr