While Black women are no more likely than other women to engage in behaviors that put them at risk, structural barriers –cultural, political, economic- and social determinants play a huge factor in increasing Black women’s risk for HIV. Theses factors that place Black women at risk are deeply connected to the social construction of HIV and Black women’s sexuality, poverty, lack of access to health care, lack of stable housing, gender- related inequalities, violence and other structural barriers rather than the individual behavioral risk factors that have been the focus of traditional prevention efforts.
We must begin to dynamically reconstruct HIV by addressing social determinants and structural barriers that women must navigate in order to receive quality services and treatment. We must do a better job of developing gender specific, comprehensive and culturally relevant programs and interventions that addresses the entire woman including her environment and lifestyle. Integrating a framework of cultural, gender, political, economic and social equality; which will require providing women and their families the knowledge skills and tools to be able to out of poverty, build self-esteem and self-efficacy, enhance cultural and ethic pride, minimize gender inequalities, reduce gender related violence, secure stable housing, and securing access to health care, etc. is essential to making a lasting impact on this epidemic.
We must begin to tackle the medical, political, spiritual, economical physical and social implications of HIV. Addressing structural barriers, increasing individual accountability, reducing stigma, normalizing conversations about sexuality and creating safe and non-judgmental spaces for women to receive care and treatment will help reduce the transmission of HIV.
They can’t do it alone! Ending the HIV epidemic will require much more than developing programs and interventions. Black women must advocate and become the agents of change that transcend boundaries, break negative intergeneration cycles, strengthen families and empower and mobilize communities then we will see a reduction in the numbers of Black women becoming infected, families being torn and communities being destroyed.
-Tamara Campbell, MSW Candidate - University of Michigan