Saturday March 10th was National Women & Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. The alarming facts are that within the United States, women constitute 25% of all new HIV infections annually. If that weren't alarming enough, out of that 25%, Although Black women only constitute 14% of the United States population, they are approximately 60% of all new HIV infections among women. When compared to less technologically advanced sub-Saharan countries within Africa, such as in the Congo (0.28%) and Kenya (0.53%), the American numbers become especially alarming.
According to The Huffington Post Black Voices, the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN), announced results from its HPTN 064 Women's HIV Seroincidence Study (ISIS) stating the following findings among 2,099 women ages 18 to 44, 88 percent of whom were black:
- 1.5 percent (32 women) tested positive at the outset of the study, even though they all thought they were negative.
- Among those who initially tested negative for HIV, the rate of new infections was 0.24 percent within a year after joining the study.
- More than 290,000 women in the United States are living with HIV/AIDS. Studies show that women tend to face greater gaps when it comes to accessing care.
- One in 32 Black women will contract HIV/AIDS in their lifetime.
- Black women constitute 13 percent of the total AIDS epidemic.
- Heterosexual Black women have the second highest rate of new infections behind only gay and bisexual men.
- Black women contract the disease at 15 times the rate of white women
Behavior vs. Social Pressures Or A Combination?
|Janet C. Cleveland, MS.|
There seems to be a question over whether the infection rate is a product of risky behavior or a product of environmental and social pressures and arrangements. Mrs. Janet Cleveland, Deputy Director for Prevention Programs, Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention of the CDC states the following:
“Oftentimes, many Black women underestimate their risk. They engage in high-risk behavior but don’t realize their risk,”
However, the official CDC announcement seems to be somewhat at odds with Mrs. Cleveland's statement to a degree. The Press release stated the following:
Research shows that black women are no more likely than women of other races to engage in risky behaviors. But a range of social and environmental factors put them at greater risk for HIV infection. These include higher prevalence of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections in some black communities, which increase the likelihood of infection with each sexual encounter. Limited access to health care can prevent women from getting HIV tested. Research also shows that financial dependence on male partners may limit some women’s ability to negotiate safe sex. HIV stigma, far too prevalent in all communities, may also discourage black women from seeking HIV testing.
Though the official announcement of the CDC is quick to point out that black women don't engage in more risky sexual behavior than other categories of women, they do point out that there are however, certain social factors that lead to categorically higher rates.
Also reporting on the current condition, News One states the following:
"Some of the factors increasing the HIV/AIDS risk for Black women include lack of access to health care and the inability to sometimes negotiate safer sex because of financial dependence on a sexual partner. In addition, because Black men have higher rates of incarceration, which can lead to concurrent relationships and the higher prevalence of AIDS in the Black community, the chances of infection are higher with each sexual encounter." ~ News One
Lack of adequate health care and a lack of testing seem to be a common point of agreement. From the above statement, News One also links the epidemic to the return of incarcerated black men who were either infected in prison or otherwise acquired the disease and in turn infect women.
"Take Charge", The CDC Solution
Though piloted in Cleveland and Philadelphia, the CDC plans to address this epidemic with the "Take Charge. Take The Test" campaign directed towards Black Women in particular to help them take control of their bodies and ultimately address the disease head on. This is from their web site:
"Take Charge. Take the Test. is part of CDC’s commitment to address the urgent HIV prevention needs of African-American women, who are far more heavily affected by HIV and AIDS than women of any other race or ethnicity in the United States. African-American women account for nearly 60 percent of all new HIV infections among women (and 13 percent of new infections overall). The rate of new infections among black women is 15 times higher than among white women.
The campaign emphasizes the importance of HIV testing as a gateway to peace of mind and better health. Campaign messages will reach black women through a variety of highly visible channels, including outdoor and transit advertising; radio ads; posters and handouts distributed in salons, stores, community organizations, and other venues; campaign ads and materials on health department and partner websites; and a dedicated campaign website, ttp://hivtest.org/takecharge, where women can find HIV testing locations in their communities.
In addition to promoting HIV testing, the campaign encourages African-American women to talk openly with their partners about HIV and insist on safe sex, and to bring these same messages to other women in social settings, workplaces, living rooms, and religious congregations."
Within The Church A Reversion To Values
Before we go too far we need to establish that church folk, by virtue of them loving the Lord, are not exempt from this. The commitment to Christ must be lived out.
For sure this is a very difficult issue and it is one filled with many stereotypes which may or may not be true. We must never forget that God is a healer and is able to heal all manner of disease. However, living right, with a commitment to biblical values significantly decreases the chances or opportunities of HIV incidence and infection. So far as sexually transmitted diseases are concerned, although one cannot make or force their spouse to live right, there is a blessing and benefit to serving and seeking the Lord and approaching life and relationships within biblical standards.
Sex before or outside of marriage while one is single is FORNICATION and is a sin. Believers should not engage in such conduct.
There is no time for a "test run" to see if you are sexually compatible with your potential mate. Modern concepts of dating within the church has left the impression that it is acceptable to play house and pretend to be married before one is actually married. Attempting to get a feel of marriage before one is married is NOT what God has called us to do.
Sanctify Marital Sexual Activity
As stated previously, although men and women cannot control their spouses behavior, the believing family must take time to lay a good foundation for their future, both physically and mentally.
Sex outside of marriage while one is married is ADULTERY and is also a sin. Believers should not engage in such conduct.
One incident of infidelity potentially leads to the destruction of the family through disease. Keep in mind that everything that looks good, is not necessarily good and is not necessarily good for you.
The application of sound biblical moral values is one way that everyone can TAKE CHARGE of their spiritual and physical health and well being. And one doesn't have to wait until the campaign passes through town. Righteousness is available right now. One thing is for certain, at the end of the day, biblical values work!