World AIDS Day makes me thankful for the achievements made to subdue the epidemic since it reared its ugly head in the 1980s. I was working for New York City’s Health and Hospital Corporation then. I was responsible for figuring out how many beds we needed in the hospital system to accommodate the sick and the dying. I saw how the epidemic moved through the community from primarily gay white men to heterosexual Black women. I’ve also witnessed the serious decline in the rate of HIV infection among Black women in recent years. It fell by 42% from 2005-2014. Good news? Yes, indeed. It clearly shows that we, Black women, can take action to remain HIV negative. And it also means we can’t stop now!
Black women remain the 4th highest HIV-infected group after Black, White and Latino men who have sex with men. We are being infected primarily through sex, two times more than our Latina sisters, and three times more than White women. We must be vigilant and stay on top of our game to create a future free of HIV. Especially when new estimates project 1 in 48 Black women will be infected with HIV in her lifetime. That’s why we need to start talking about PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis).
PrEP is the here and now, and the future of HIV prevention. It involves taking a daily pill and using condoms and has been proven to reduce the risk of HIV infection from sex by more than 90%. However, we’ve learned Black women are among the least likely to use PrEP, because they just don’t know about it. So as we commemorate this World AIDS Day, join us and let’s educate and empower our sisters. Let’s talk about HIV prevention. Let’s talk about PrEP!