Creating the Right Message for Women of Color

By Rob Banaszak on September 23, 2010 in Every Life Matters, Every Dollar Counts

Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice

Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice

by Valerie Montgomery Rice, MD
Executive Director and Dean
Center for Women’s Health Research
Meharry Medical College
Nashville, TN
Chair, Every Life Matters, Every Dollar Counts

As a member of the National AIDS Fund Board of Trustees, I am proud to be associated with the the organization’s work, and especially with the Every Life Matters, Every Dollar Counts campaign. When you look at the risk of HIV in this country, you begin to clearly recognize that the some of the people most impacted are women of color. Black women constituted about 63% of all new cases in the U.S. in 2005. To put it another way, if you were to look at the demographic of new cases per 100,000 women in this country, here is what you would find: 45.9/100.000 black; 13.8/Hispanic; and only 2/100,000 white. These statistics apply for women between 18 to 40 years of age.

Why are women of color so disproportionately affected? The fact is, there have always been a disproportionate number of black people being affected, even in the early 90’s when AIDS was thought of as a gay white man’s disease. What has happened is that while we’ve seen a significant decrease in the death and prevalence in the white population, we haven’t seen the same in the black population. Part of this is because of lack of access to treatment, and the second part of it is that heterosexual contact is the number one way that black women are becoming HIV positive. And even though we don’t like to talk about this, this goes all the way back to men being in prison. The highest percentage of people in prison are black men. They become positive in prison, and then spread the disease to women. In many cases, black women are involved without even knowing they are at risk.

So when we talk about how to make a difference, we can not underestimate how important education is toward prevention. We especially know that we have to make sure we’re creating the right message for women of color. So, the Every Life Matters, Every Dollar Counts initiative is going to raise dollars that will be directed to communities of color — especially women in those communities — around education and prevention.

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