RECENT DEVELOPMENTS COULD FINALLY TURN THE TABLES FOR GOOD IN THE 30-YEAR WAR AGAINST THE DISEASE. HERE'S WHAT THE LATEST ADVANCES MEAN FOR BLACK WOMEN
BY KELLEE TERRELL
Body & Spirit| Health Report
Essence Magezine December 2011
Black women are 15 times more likely to be diagnosed with HIV than White women. And while we make up only 12 percent of the female population, in 2009 we accounted for 57 percent of all new HIV infections among U.S. women. But not all the news is bad. "There has been a huge push to focus resources where the epidemic is by promoting testing and linking people to care and behavioral interventions," says Kevin Fenton, M.D., director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for HIV/AIDS. Recent breakthroughs hold promise for further reducing the rates of HIV among Black women.
A South African study of 900 women found that a vaginal gel spiked with the HIV medication tenofovir lowered these women's chances of contracting the disease by 51 percent when inserted in the vagina 12 hours before intercourse. The gel-one of several microbicides being tested-is currently undergoing further clinical trials.
WHAT THIS MEANS TO YOU
"Many African-American women are afraid to discuss condom use with partners because they fear rejection, abuse or being labeled as promiscuous," says Claire Simon, the cofounder of the Young Women's HIV/AIDS Coalition in New York City. "A woman-controlled form of protection would eliminate the negotiation and give women more power over their bodies."
A PREVENTION PLAN
Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) involves giving HIV-negative patient medications to prevent them from contracting the disease. In July the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released results of two new studies that showed giving two types of HIV medications to heterosexual HIV-negative people can decrease their chance of becoming infected By an HIV-positive partner by up to 63 percent.
WHAT THIS MEANS TO YOU: Oni Blackstock, M.D., of the Yale School of Medicine notes that PrEP can provide Black women with an alternative means of HIV protection: "Ongoing trials will help us figure out which type of PrEP will be most effective," she says.
Under the Affordable Care Act, if your insurance coverage started on March 23, 2010, or later, you aren't responsible for a co- pay when getting tested for sexually transmitted infections.
WHAT THIS MEANS TO YOU: Many Black women delay finding out their HIV status, which has often meant by the time they're diagnosed, the disease has progressed to AIDS. "Black women too often put off their own health screenings in order to take care of everyone else," says Hilary Beard,
Co-author of Health First! The Black Women's Wellness Guide (Smileylsooes). "And sometimes we just can't afford see a doctor. Free preventive testings will help to ensure that we can afford to take care of ourselves."