As we celebrate Women’s History Month and mark National Black Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on Saturday, March 10, 2018, the Black AIDS Institute is launching a Black Women and PrEP Tool Kit, offering direct services for Black women in our prevention clinic in Los Angeles, and announcing that we will conduct a series of summits nationwide to increase capacity for advocacy and education around PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) access for Black women.
Increasing Black Women’s Access to PrEP
An urgent need exists to leverage recent biomedical advances by increasing Black women’s use of PrEP, a daily pill that, taken correctly, can prevent HIV among women by more than 90 percent. In 2015, more than 60 percent of new HIV diagnoses among women occurred among Black women. Indeed, experts estimate that 1 in 48 Black women (pdf) will acquire HIV during her lifetime. Already, more than 50 percent of Black transgender women are living with HIV. However, only a tiny fraction of PrEP users are Black women; insufficient data exists on how many Black trans women are taking PrEP.
The Black AIDS Institute sees PrEP as part of a prevention toolbox that includes treatment as prevention and condom use. We also believe that health-care access and bodily autonomy are essential for people to use PrEP. Developed by Black women for Black women, the Black Women and PrEP Toolkit will provide resources for increasing PrEP use among Black women. The toolkit includes:
- Informational posters about HIV in Black communities and PrEP as a prevention tool, featuring the beauty and diversity of our sisters, friends and lovers.
- Best practices and tools to help advocates and educators bring PrEP to their communities. These are informed by the conversations we’ve had about PrEP with Black women.
- Hypertext links to resources from other organizations that Black women and the organizations that work with them should be aware of.
The Black Women and PrEP Toolkit is in use in Los Angeles, where the Black AIDS Institute is offering direct service to women at our weekly prevention clinic, open Mondays in partnership with St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, a federally qualified community health center. We are also working with local advocates to make sure we have resources specifically for women: linkages to prenatal care or hormone therapy, educational groups for women taking PrEP, and a safe space to discuss and address stigma.
National Summits: Broadening the PrEP Conversation
A new generation of HIV/AIDS activists is rising in Black communities. As we bolster the capacity for this response, this year the Black AIDS Institute will host live gatherings throughout the nation to discuss PrEP with Black women and allies of various backgrounds. These summits will provide a space to create plans and share best practices and tactics to take home to work on in our communities. We invite you to join us in September 2018 at the Black Women and PrEP Preconference to the United States Conference on AIDS. We will announce other dates later.
Central to our efforts is expanding the idea of what constitutes “HIV work” with Black women. We want to broaden the conversation so that when people think about Black women, they consider the full breadth of our experiences.
In other words, to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic among Black women, we need to be thinking about factors that impact women’s everyday lives, such as unequal pay, immigration, maternal mortality, transphobia and over-policing. This year, advocates from these different areas will come together to discuss HIV education, stigma and prevention within these larger contexts.
The Black women who work at the Black AIDS Institute will be leading all aspects of these initiatives. To quote the Combahee River Collective, a group of radical Black women who understood that their liberation could not be separated from feminism, racial liberation or queer liberation, “We believe that Black women are inherently valuable.”
Black feminist tradition values collaboration. We believe that we can effect greater change, educate more people and decrease more stigma when we are working together.
The women of the Black AIDS Institute are excited to offer innovative programming and to share the lessons we learn with you.
Marie-Fatima Hyacinthe is a mobilization coordinator for the Black AIDS Institute.