Black Women Aren’t Getting Enough Care Despite Being the Majority of New HIV Cases Among Women

By Lou Portero - February 10, 2023

Though men remain the largest group of people diagnosed with HIV, Black women make up the majority of new HIV cases among women.

Despite the numbers being high, experts say there is a lack of awareness about the high rate of the virus among Black women, which is linked to men who have sex with men. According to the CDC, one in nine women is unaware they have the virus.

“This is about really reframing a narrative … that HIV is only for certain people and only in certain places,” said Marc Meachem, external affairs director at ViiV Healthcare, who has spent his career leading medication outreach in disproportionately affected communities. “So many Black women who do get an HIV diagnosis are shocked to find out,” he added.

As reported by USA Today, the disparities in diagnosis and treatment are due to multiple factors such as structural racism, stigma, discrimination, homophobia, and lack of healthcare access. Furthermore, according to the CDC, those assigned females at birth, Black individuals, and teens and young adults have the lowest access to medical care for HIV.

Taking daily HIV prevention pills – pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) – has been shown to be highly effective in preventing infection. However, Only two PrEP drugs have been approved by the FDA for women: Truvada and the injectable Apretude (manufactured by Viiv). Descovy, another pill, was approved in 2019, but its use has only been approved for men.

Assistant Professor Maria Nicole Pyra, an Epidemiologist at Northwestern University, stated that researchers missed an opportunity to help at-risk women because it was not established until later that PrEP therapy was safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Pyra also mentioned that women are often not represented in PrEP advertising, as companies tend to focus on men, who make up the majority of new HIV diagnoses in the US. 

According to a CDC analysis, PrEP medications aren’t reaching enough patients – especially those of color. Of about five hundred thousand Black and three hundred thousand Latino patients who could have benefited from PrEP in 2015, only about seven thousand prescriptions were filled for Black and seven thousand six hundred prescriptions for Latino patients.

On the other hand, about three hundred thousand white patients could have benefited from the medication, and more than forty thousand prescriptions were filled.

Transgender women also face disparities. According to a CDC survey, 4 of 10 transgender women had HIV, with Black women being the most affected group. To address this, the Black Women’s Working Group has created a framework for a grant to raise awareness and reach diverse Black women unaware of their HIV risk.

Tori Cooper, a health equity advocate at the Black Women’s Working Group, which helped develop the framework for the grant, said it is essential to reach diverse Black women who didn’t realize they had to be aware of HIV. 

“It’s really using a peer-to-peer model where Black women are talking to Black women,” she said. “This is Black women who are leading. We’re creating, we’re educating, providing resources and brain power to other Black women.”


Source: USA Today

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