Black Women And HIV/AIDS Essay Examples

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Women, Aids, America, People, United States, African American, Viruses, Men

Pages: 10

Words: 2750

Published: 2020/12/02

For my research paper on “Black Women in Feminism and the Media” I will be writing about the issue of Black Women and HIV/AIDS. This is one of the most disturbing and prevalent issue in our society today. The infectious nature of HIV, the high-priced retroviral medication and the weakening of the human immune system makes AIDS an epidemic. However, it is my opinion that in case of Black women, there is a larger problem surrounding this particular case. Women have been discriminated against through ages and the discrimination against African Americans has also been historical. This paper is my attempt to break down the current events surrounding the topic and analyse how the issue intersects with issues of race, gender, sexuality and the general oppression of Black Women.
HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Syndrome is one of the most dangerous health crisis to have hit the world. HIV is a virus that is spread through unprotected sexual contact, through infected needles and infected blood transfusion and from mother to child. What makes HIV truly dangerous is that it attacks the human immune system thus weakening the body’s defences and opening it up to various illnesses. Left untreated, HIV turns in to full blown AIDS. The disease is mostly asymptomatic in its early stages and a lot of people remain unaware of their infection. The fact that HIV is spread through unsafe sex is enough to create a huge stigma around it. The reason HIV is a huge issue for the Black Population is the high number of black people affected by the disease. Furthermore, Black Women are the most effected female population as compared to women belonging to any other race. Data from CDC shows that of the all the new HIV infections, forty-four percent are accounted by the Blacks. Additionally, forty-one percent people living with HIV are also African American. This means that one out of every sixteen black men and thirty-two black women will get infected by the virus in their lifetime.
Among the African American population, seventy percent men and thirty percent women account for the new infections reported. The maximum infections are seen in bisexual and gay men (Men who have sex with Men, MSM) followed by heterosexual women. Black MSMs are twenty-eight percent of the infected MSMs as compared to sixteen percent of white MSMs. (CDC, 2008) African American women form sixty-four percent of the entire female HIV positive population. The incidence rate of HIV for African American women is twenty percent higher than white women. The reason for this seems to be a much higher prevalence of HIV in the Black community and this African American people having relations within the community leads to an increase in the percentage. It is easy to see why and how African American women living with HIV/AIDS would be discriminated against. The reasons for these are many and quite complex. This is the issue I will be analysing through this paper. A black woman living with HIV is possibly leading one of the most difficult lifestyles. There is a huge history of discrimination against African Americans especially in the United States of America and against women in general. Adding to this the stigma of being HIV positive, arguably increases the possibility of discrimination to a hundred percent.
According to a young African American woman Imani* (name changed for the discussion), she was thirty-two when she was infected by the virus. She has seen several of her close friends succumb to AIDS and she did not expect to live until middle age. However due to proper medication she is now in her fifties although she also battles with diabetes and hypertension. She has another obstacle that is to look for employment to be able to support herself. Clearly, this lifestyle is ought to cause severe depression which interferes with the treatment itself. Imani is just one woman; there are a huge number of women like her which proves that if AIDS does not kill us, the added pressures from our own society will. These women need to put themselves and their treatment first, which truly is a big feat considering many of the m have children and dependents. (The journal AIDS Patient Care and STDs this month published the qualitative study "Taking It One Day at a Time: African-American Women Aging with HIV and Co-Morbidities.") This studied several women like Imani and examined issues like medication adherence, social-support needs, co-morbidity self-management, and their plans for old-age. The African American proverb says that the Blacks don’t crack. Through history blacks have lived for more years while managing several illnesses and it has been no easy journey. Even though the study may point out that the aging women who receive the retroviral treatment are better off than the ones who don’t; the truth isn’t as simple as that. Aging though natural is never an easy journey for a woman. Add to it the added pressures of being a black woman infected by HIV struggling to find jobs and take care of her family; each day for such a woman can be a nightmare. And for every one woman who gets it right, hundreds are struggling.
So what makes the Black population more susceptible to the HIV infection: Recent research on the topic shines a light on what might be the cause for the African American getting more infected by the deadly virus than the rest of the population? The research says that blacks have a specific genetic trait that cause their higher susceptibility. Scientists believe that this trait that also provides them protection against malaria, is responsible for about eleven percent of the HIV cases in Africa. Africa was also the continent that was most highly effected by AIDS. This trait is non-existent in the white population and is seen in sixty percent of African American and ninety percent of Africans.
According to UNAIDS global figures in the years 2008, only thirty-eight percent of women have access to comprehensive information about the infection. This mainly is due to norms of femininity and women being coy. Women are supposed to be the submissive gender when it comes to sexual experiences and information. Due to this, women become increasing more disposable to the disease.
There is frequent violence and abuse of women. In the age groups of fifteen to forty-nine years, a disturbing 10 to 60 percent of females have experienced abuse of some kind. Forced intercourse increases the chances of HIV infections due to cuts and lacerations. Women also fear demanding their partners to use contraceptives or say no to things they do want to engage in. Women fear violence or breaking of the relationship if they demand their basic rights. These fears are also the reason a lot of women keep their HIV status hidden. Women go through their entire lives being discriminated against; it doesn’t seem unnatural if they want to not be discriminated on another count. This may also be the reason why less women are able to seek and get treatment. There are lot of gender inequalities that exist in our war against HIV. Unfortunately, till our society remains unequal in terms of gender, these issues are extremely hard to resolve.
A recent program named “SHE PREVAILS” has been recently launched which targets African American women suffering from HIV. This recent community program is meant to help these women embrace better health practices by providing ways to manage substance abuse and depression, which in turn increase the likelihood of them spreading the infection on to others. The program has been funded by a three year grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The program includes screening that goes to show that it wants to target the problem right from the beginning. The program has been developed in order to empower women to handle their sexual and mental health with more control. (Stepleman, 2014) They want to identify the problems faced by the women in this group and help them treat it right to its entirety.
Stepleman mentions that women are genetically driven to take care of other before themselves. They want to support their male partners, their children and parents before themselves. In fact their health stands much behind their personal relationships and their careers. Substance abuse makes this huge problem even bigger, since people on substances tend to make poorer choices and people who are already infect and abusing drugs get sicker much faster. Many groups are aware of the fact that the reason women are targeted for being black, HIV-infected are much deeper than these issues itself. Our genders and our race is completely out of our control. However, the amount of stigmatisation and discrimination we are put through is unbelievable. Being HIV infected is more in our control, however as we have seen above there are people who are much more predisposed to it and may catch it in their first exposure itself. These are genetic mishaps and definitely not the fault of any women; but millions of them struggle daily for their basic rights to employment, respect and medication. Programs like these are definitely needed and must keep increasing if we have to start solving the issue at all.
According to Omi & Winant (1994), Race can be defined as a concept that signifies social conflicts and interests in reference to the various kinds of human bodies. They also defined a term called Racial Projects, which refers to how race fits into different social scenarios and also how the situation changes depending on the race involved. This is clear in the way people have distinguished people of colour through the history of our time here. It isn’t simply for African American but Asians also have been discriminated on these counts. Now, it is easy to understand that the reason the Black population has higher rates of prevalent HIV infections lies in their genetic traits. This definitely isn’t a part of their structure they can control. However, the white population has no such genetic traits. In fact, this particular genetic trait is non-existent in whites. However, white people particularly the white MSMs also have huge numbers of infected people in their groups. By this argument it is clear that discriminating against HIV infected people based on their colour is not just morally wrong but also very dangerous. Doing this targeting sort of makes it a problem of only the Black people. Though I understand that they are more unfortunately hit by the virus and must be given proper education and medication; there is no use or practicality in making this a problem only for them. This strategy does nothing at all for the problems of the HIV virus. Under such racial and gender discriminatory practices people are hiding their statues from their partners and spreading the disease to many more people. The problem with HIV is HIV itself. It is the virus which is causing people to lose their immune system. However, medicine has advanced to a stage where treatment of the disease is possible to almost a curable stage, where people can enjoy healthy lives and also not spread the infection to others. However, loss of employment, desensitisations, mental problems, racial and gender targeting, non-availability of the treatment to he poor are all are the problems of our society. The stigma surrounding black women living with AIDS will not reduce until the stigma surrounding black women and women goes away.
Another interesting topic that intersects with my topic is the issue of feminism. This word is not unknown to anyone. In fact, in almost every newspaper, television, movie we hear the word and see detailed discussions regarding it. The media has done its best to bring this issue to the forefront. But what does this popular term really mean? In one of the earliest definitions of the term, it was described as “a question regarding the state of women in society and an effort to transform that state and understand what a woman really means” (Davies, 1994) She further said that feminism could be social, liberal, radical and Marxist. Radical feminism refereed to gender discrimination due to patriarchy or male dominance. Liberal feminism was cited to unequal opportunities whereas Marxist was due to class oppressions. Social feminism was said to be due to a mixture of male dominance and class differences. In the reasons we listed in why women are more susceptible to HIV infections; we understood that women suffer from male domination if not directly then indirectly. Women tend to be more submissive while trying to form intimate relationships, they tend to focus more on the relationships than their empowerment and many such causes. All over the media we come across mature men and women stating that feminism is simply the equality of the two sexes. The term gender denotes the psychological differences that are present between men and women. These differences are very real and create diversity in our population. However, letting a person suffer more in the same situation just because they are male or female is wrong on all possible levels. Patriarchal practices have always portrayed women and their bodies under ownership of the males of the house. In fact men have been claiming to place their honour on the fact that their daughters and wives are sexually restrained. Sexual behaviours are a personal choice and the freedom to practice the same is a basic right. There are too many negative consequences of such superficial practices. Women remain less empowered through most of their lives and even the ones who don’t are not able to make decision of self-love and self-respect. Their allegiance shift from one male to another. Women are sole owners of their own sexuality and no one should tell them differently. The relationships between men and women are meant to be beautiful and can only be truly so if both are equal.

Black Women and Dimensions of Black Women Oppressions:

There are three dimensions of Black women Oppressions as noted by Patricia Hill Collins. These are economic, political and ideological dimensions.
As a part of economic dimension of oppression, society tends to devalue women off their economic potentials, roles and responsibilities. This is seem where women are paid less for the same role and function as the men are doing. This possible stems from the fact that historically men have been bread-winners and women the caregivers. However, the times have changed from a very long time and discriminating economically based on genders is extremely cruel. Especially since there are far more single mothers taking care of their children on their own as men are. There are such economically suppressive riles in the society, which then wonders when prostitution rises ad increase the incidence of HIV. These are all inter-related issues. If women are not given equal economic standing in the same world where a piece of bread costs the same regardless of gender, it isn’t surprising that women suffer from low self-esteem and depression.
Political dimension of oppression signifies the exclusion of women from civic life. Congressmen do not seem to address women, more so black women in their promises post resuming office. The majority of issues side-line women and hence women are not given an active participation in the matter of the government that makes laws that they have to abide by. For example, the issues of discrimination against black women have existed since decades. However, the laws against these issues and more so the proper execution of these laws are a sad situation.
The last dimension is the ideological dimension under which people tend to view black people and black women as poor, uneducated and “unhygienic” individuals. This is more of a perceptive dimension and choice people make almost instinctively. However, it is very important to remember that the reason a huge majority of women struggle is due to the fact that they have been oppressed from time unknown. And the way to clear these perceptions is definitely not to discriminate against them more,
Unfortunately, the scope of this problem doesn’t end with this for Black Women. As it has been researched and proven, women are more susceptible to the virus than men. Let’s take a look at the various causes that could responsible for women being at a higher risk. Men in our society are encouraged if not celebrated for having more sexual partners. There is also a prevalence of older men having sexual relations with women much younger than them. This put the younger female generation more at risk than younger male population. For MSM individuals, their own stigma “homophobia” exists where men keep their preferences a secret thus leading to them forming relations with women. As stated earlier MSM is the group with the highest infected HIV people.

Works Cited

"HIV among African Americans." Web. 26 Feb. 2015. <>.
Monroe, Irene. "African-American Sisters Aging With HIV and Co-Morbidities." The Huffington Post. Web. 26 Feb. 2015. <>.
Web. 26 Feb. 2015. <>.
"Gender Inequalities and HIV." WHO. Web. 26 Feb. 2015. <>.
Windsor, Liliane, Ellen Benoit, and Eloise Dunlap. "Dimensions of Oppression in the Lives of Impoverished Black Women Who Use Drugs." Journal of Black Studies. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Web. 26 Feb. 2015. <>.
"HIV among African American Women." YouTube. YouTube. Web. 26 Feb. 2015. <>.
"New Program Helps Reduce HIV-risk in African-American Women." New Program Helps Reduce HIV-risk in African-American Women. Web. 26 Feb. 2015. <>.

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