Race, Gender, Poverty and HIV
Did you know that among all the races and ethnicities, African Americans have the highest rate of HIV diagnoses? African Americans make up 13% of the United State's population, but accounted for 42% of HIV diagnoses.
In 2017, 51% of new HIV diagnoses occurred in the Southern states.
Fundings for HIV care in the South has decrease by $2 million from 2015-2016.

WHAT IS THE ISSUE?

Females in non urban black communities have a higher risk of being diagnosed with HIV. Infection rates among Black women are nearly 15 times higher than those among White women. This is because non urban communities tend to be less funded than urban communities. Communities that are underfunded experience a tremendous gap in the access of  education and hospital care that leads to racism, sexism and political barriers. It's not just about the money, or the lack of it, that accounts for the increase in HIV diagnoses. Those in poverty are affected because of the lack resources that are provided can prevent many individuals from seeking treatment, care, acceptance, and support.

Recently there has been a crisis that is imminent and brings upon us a great sense of urgency. All over the country there has been a downward trend in the resources supporting HIV/AIDS patients as the amount of patients grow. Right now a large part of the financial support comes from government programs that aid in the payment of the antiretroviral drugs and other services for people with HIV/AIDS.

 

There Ryan White Care Act alone provides $7 million a year to people with HIV/AIDS in low income communities throughout Oakland. This money goes towards doctors, social workers, nurses, support staff and numerous clinical programs. Most importantly though, it pays for the antiretroviral drugs. This law makes it possible for people to begin treatment right away after being diagnosed. Often, people can receive the drug the same day, before finishing any paperwork about income and residency. This law has been essential in the care of people with lower socioeconomic statuses with HIV. Nearly 2/3 of the 1,200 patients that are undergoing treatment are made possible by this act. Nationally, the Ryan White Acts provides $2 billion a year to patients in need across the United States. Many people in Oakland rely on Medi-Cal, a health insurance program for low-income residents of California. However, this is getting harder and harder to rely on since state cutbacks have made it harder for patients to find treatment for HIV that are covered under Medi-Cal since it is a public insurance. In this current political climate the Ryan White Act may be discontinued and without the Ryan White Act, it leaves many patients stranded struggling to support themselves with Medi-Cal. As more and more people are being infected each day, the treatment availability becomes harder and harder. 

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Education

Education is one of the leading method to combating the HIV epidemic. For communities that lack educational funds, it makes it harder for schools to prioritize sexual education to educate students about topics like HIV/AIDS and protection.  Educating those about HIV/AIDS will reduce stigma and discrimination. That will decrease HIV diagnosis, change attitudes, and provide support to those that are affected. The absence of sexual education as a part of a curriculum can lead students to believe the misconceptions about HIV/AIDS. These misconceptions is what creates fear and stigma around HIV/AIDS.


 

 

Sexism and Intersectionality

Intersectionality is defined as the parts to a person’s identity that impacts their life at the same time. Some of those identities have lead to oppression, privileges, biases and many more. There are so many assumptions based on one’s race that affects how each person is treated. The key words “black women, woman living in a rural area, and black women in poverty”  may impact the ways she is perceived in different communities. Black women in the south have been neglected, and therefore, will continue if no action is being done.

 

 

Racism

For many generations, society has put a higher value on the lives of white people than those of color. Institutionalized racism affects health care, health intervention, and services in minority communities. The national response to the HIV epidemic for minorities tend to be slower than other communities. 

 

 

Health Care in the South (Political Barriers)

 

Federal funds for HIV care and prevention continues to decrease in the South. This is because the CDC has lowered the amount of money given to those living with HIV. In addition to this, a study by Funders Concerned about AIDS in 2014 concluded that 12% of private foundation funding for HIV in the United States were given to the deep south. The southern states have no expanded Medicaid and as a result, it limits access to healthcare to those who are not eligible for the Affordable Care Act or  private insurance providers. Those who cannot afford private insurance are required to be covered through a governmental insurance program. However, the programs that are government runned have not been able to fully support those living with HIV/AIDS.

PERSONAL STORIES

1 in 4 persons living with HIV in the U.S. are women (CDC).
M. Chevelle Reed

M. Chevelle Reeds was diagnosed with HIV in 2013. She had contracted it from her husband of eight years who had been secretly sleeping with a male friend.  Stimatization of African American female in the South has made it hard for indivduals like herself to be accepted by society. The stigma around HIV affects her relationship with friends, family and mental health. After her diagnosis, she sought out support group for women. However, there were no support groups because of the lack of support and fundings in her town.

 

What is one pice of advice you would give to your audience?

 “Treat everyone like they have it. Don’t take it for granted. You always want to be safe and you always want to use protection. Educate those around you." -Mchevellereeds

Click the button below to read more about about  M. Chevelle Reeds's story.

Robin

Robin was diagnosed with  HIV at the age of 15. As she heard the news, she thought her life was over. She started living a suicidal lifestyle and turned to drugs and prostitution. At the age of 23, she got the help needed for her substance abuse and started  her HIV medication. She began to educate herself more about HIV/AIDS. She has been an advocate ever since for those dealing with substance abuse and HIV.

What is one pice of advice you would give to your audience?

"Don't think HIV can happen to you because of your age, race, sex or who you love. HIV can happen to anyone of us. It is important to have healthy relationships and have healthy conversations. Learn more about your risk factors. Even if you were never taught how to have a healthy relationship, just be open to learning. Always be willing to share information with your friends. Be a bank of resources."- Robin

Robin Bracelet

To help others like her, women and men who suffer with substance abuse and HIV, Robin started a jewelry business in Los Angeles, California. This wood beaded bracelet symbolizes perseverance. 

HOW TO ADDRESS THE ISSUE


 

  • HIV care needs to be more accessible. Those that have HIV/AIDS are unable to receive the right care because some non urban communities lack transportation to urban areas that have more resources.

 

  • Use fundings for sexual education to educate children about HIV/AIDS. Make sexual education a part of the curriculum and include a section on protection and awareness.

 

  • Endorse HIV/AIDS activism and spread it further than just the niche communities that are affected. By doing so further progress can be achieved in Washington DC with things such as the expansion of the Affordable Care Act that Trump has recently been reducing in order to make HIV/AIDS care more accessible. The proposed budget cuts, if are sanctioned, will undercut all the advancements that have been made.

 

  • A request to change how federal funding decisions are made. This would influence lawmakers to support those affected by HIV/AIDS.

 

  • Support organizations that have a focus on reducing HIV diagnosis for black females in area of poverty.

 

  • Making condoms readily available to anyone engaging in sexual activities. This would mean more funding for resources.

  • Supporting behavior change education and support.

  • Educate your peers about the issue. 

If you are in a sorority or fraternity, educate and get your brothers and sisters  involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Here are some ways to get involved:
  • Host a dance-a-thon to raise money
  • Host a conversation session
  • Raise awareness on social media
  • Bring in speakers to group events
  • Wear a Red Ribbon
  • Bake sale on World AIDS Day
  • Start an text chain
  • Start a crowdfunding campaign
  • Use AmazonSmile and select your charitable  organization

ORGANIZATIONS

Southern Aids Coalition(SAC) is an organization that focuses on providing those living with HIV an opportunity to demand “systemic policy changes” and “strategic investments”. They focus on advocacy and prevention through training and give presentations to spread the message about those affected by HIV/AIDS in order to combat the stigma associated with it. Click the box below to visit SAC.

Heroes LA is dedicated to improving the life of those affected by HIV in the rural south. They provide services and assistance to those who need it. In addition to this, they run programs, retreats, and educational sessions that focuses on the issue in Louisiana.

Sister Love focuses on eradicating "the impact of HIV" and "sexual and reproduction oppression" for women around the world. Volunteers educate their peers on AIDS prevention, self-help, safer sex techniques. Their goal is to educate, prevent, support and be an advocate both internationally and globally.

The Well Project aims to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic for women and girls. This organization started when there were little to no information about HIV/AIDS that addressed their needs. Over the last few years, The Well Project has been working on providing women with resources nationally and globally. 

Women Organized to Respond to Life-Threatening Diseases (World) focuses on improving the lives of females affected by HIV through "education, wellness services, advocacy and leadership development.

Explore CDC's HIV Data

Online support groups is great way to connect with other that are going through the same experience. Members of support groups share their experience and offer emotional and moral support. 

Resources for Women Living with HIV in the United States