Black Women & HIV: Is It Getting Better Or Worse?

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A red ribbon in the palms of someone's handsDid you know that 1 in 32 black women will be infected with HIV in their lifetimes, if current trends continue?

June 27, 2014, is National HIV Testing Day. What is it? It’s a reminder that when you know your HIV status, you can take care of yourself and your partners. HIV testing is recommended, it’s empowering, and it’s easy.

So get tested! There are no excuses.

Did you know…?

  • In 2010, women and adolescent girls (aged 13 years and older) made up about one in four of the 1.1 million people living with HIV in the United States. Most of these infections (75%) were from sex with men, and the rest were from injection drug use.
  • Black women are more affected by HIV at all stages of the disease than white women.
  • Many women who have been diagnosed with HIV are not getting the care they need. Only half of women who were diagnosed with HIV in 2009 were staying in care in 2010, according to a study of 19 areas in the United States, and less than half (4 in 10) had viral suppression (meaning the level of HIV virus in a person’s blood is low enough to help them stay healthy). Viral suppression also leads to a greatly reduced chance of spreading the virus to others.

Why are women at risk?

According to CDC, there are many different reasons that women are still at such great risk of HIV infection, most of them involving unprotected sex. Vaginal sex without a condom carries a much higher HIV risk for women than for men, and anal sex without a condom is riskier for women than vaginal sex without a condom. More than one in five young women in one survey reported anal sex in the past year.

  • Women may be afraid that their partner will leave them or even physically abuse them if they try to talk about condom use.
  • Some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) greatly increase a woman’s chance of getting or spreading HIV.
  • Exchanging sex for drugs, having multiple partners, or having sex with a partner who is physically abusive when asked to use a condom all increase risk of HIV.
  • Sharing needles or other drug-use equipment contaminated with HIV.

How can women better protect themselves?

Get tested for HIV. To find a testing site near you, call 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636), visit hivtest.cdc.gov, or text your ZIP code to KNOW IT (566948). You can also use a home testing kit.

Either abstain or agree to be in a monogamous relationship. If you have sex, regardless of your relationship, it’s still important that you and your partner get tested for HIV every year, and share your test results with one another before you make the decision to have sex. If you aren’t in a monogamous relationship, try to limit your sex partners. The fewer partners, the lower your infection risks.

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