Let's Advance the Conversation Among Black Women on HIV and PrEP
September 28, 2017
"My husband and I [who are both HIV negative] had the same primary care doctor," she explained during a workshop on Sept. 9 entitled "Black Women and PrEP," which was sponsored by the Black AIDS Institute. "When it was his turn for a physical, our doctor said that he was going to run a series of tests including a glucose check, cholesterol check and HIV. He didn't miss a beat. I was so impressed that I wrote our doctor a note telling him so," she said.
"A couple of weeks later, I went for my own checkup," she continued. "The same doctor said he was going to test me for glucose and a cholesterol check -- and that was it. I said, 'I would like to have an HIV test.' He looked at my chart and said, 'I'm sorry. I thought that you were married.'" After expressing her concern to him about this gross oversight, her physician gave her the test.
McKinley-Beach's story is familiar to many American black women, whose care providers often don't think to ask them about or offer to test them for HIV, even though HIV affects them far more than women of any other race or ethnicity. (Although, at the same time, HIV rates among black women have dropped sharply in recent years.) These same oversights come into play when it comes to care providers not telling black women about the option of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), the HIV-prevention pill regimen.
Care providers often make assumptions about black women, such as that if they have been long married, they are not at risk for HIV, regardless of their or their spouse's sexual or drug-using history or current practices. Yet, with proper education, health educators and providers can set their own personal biases and blind spots aside to deliver potentially lifesaving information and options to this high-risk but underserved population.
Here are three takeaways for providers that McKinley-Beach and other leaders shared at USCA regarding black women and PrEP:
Overall, health organizations need to think more creatively about how to bring information about HIV and PrEP to black women. Reaching out to black women's social networks is a great place to start. Collaborations with other support agencies to integrate PrEP into preexisting conversations could also widen the net.
Candace Y.A. Montague is an award-winning freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. She has been covering HIV and AIDS and other health topics for more than nine years. Follow her on Twitter @urbanbushwoman9.
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This article was provided by TheBodyPRO. It is a part of the publication The 21st United States Conference on AIDS.
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