by Sherrie Bain
The World AIDS Day theme this year highlights ‘Getting to Zero’, as the optimistic goal for reducing the number of AIDS-related deaths in the future. Thanks to life-saving anti-retroviral therapy (ART), many more individuals are indeed living with HIV, instead of dying from AIDS. Yet, there is a growing HIV crisis within the African American community.
Across the board: straight, gay, or just ‘bi-curious’, Black men and woman are becoming infected with HIV at alarming rates. One of the most devastating aspects of this growing HIV crisis is the fact that young, Black women are a large percentage of the primary statistics. Overall, African American females make up approximately two thirds of all new HIV cases. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that HIV diagnoses were 20 times higher for African American adult and adolescent women in comparison to non-Hispanic white females.
Not only are more Black women being diagnosed with HIV, many of them are also dying from AIDS related complications. AIDS is now the leading cause of death for African American women between the ages of 25yrs – 34yrs. African American women are 21 times more likely to die from HIV/AIDS than non-Hispanic females. These statistics reflect the fact that many African American women are becoming infected with HIV when they are still teenagers. It also highlights the fact that getting through to our young women about safe sex is going to be essential if we are to prevent them from becoming future HIV statistics.
One of the young, Black women working to do just that is Teniecka Drake. She represents our sisters, our best friends, and for many, the person staring out from the mirror… the person who was once a young teenage girl, naïve enough to believe the big, bad wolf in disguise. Even grown women sometimes have a hard time admitting when their Prince Charming is really a toad. For younger girls who are about the age Teniecka was when she became infected, it’s often even harder to assert themselves about safe sex, especially when they’re in a relationship with an older man. Teniecka hopes that by continuing to share her story she can help other young women to take the necessary precautions to avoid contracting HIV.