HIV/AIDS Rates Rocket for Black U.S. Women

The skyrocketing HIV infection rates seen among U.S. women of color were a central theme for advocates attending last month's 19th International AIDS Conference in Washington. CDC data show that in 2009, black women accounted for nearly 30 percent of the estimated HIV infections among blacks, who overall comprised 44 percent of all new infections that year. The rate of new HIV infections among black women was 15 times that of white women and more than three times that of Latinas.

Organizers of the "30 for 30 Campaign" say gender inequality is a driver of HIV's disproportionate impact on women, particularly black women, 30 years into the epidemic. Policy makers must address social factors that make women vulnerable, said Dazon Dixon Diallo, head of the Atlanta-based HIV/AIDS organization SisterLove Inc. These include access to housing and female-focused care, as well as stopping gender-based violence, which afflicts poor women, women of color and transgender women in greater numbers.

C. Virginia Fields, president and CEO of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS Inc., is the campaign's chair. She said the Affordable Care Act (ACA) addresses some of these disparities.

Additional approaches are detailed in a guide published by 30 for 30 and the Harvard Law School Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation. The report says comprehensive reproductive health care must include routine HIV testing, and it advocates for HIV prevention-focused domestic-violence assistance.

"Moreover, it calls on states to expand Medicaid so that poor women, women of color and transgender women can get the HIV care they need," said Fields. However, Republican governors in six states -- including five with high rates of HIV and poverty -- have indicated they will opt out of the ACA's federally financed expansion of Medicaid.