Skip to main content
Home » Living With HIV & AIDS » Advocating to End the HIV Epidemic for All Black Women
Living With HIV & AIDS

Advocating to End the HIV Epidemic for All Black Women

As the country unites to end the HIV epidemic, AIDS United stands at the forefront, strengthening and driving the engine forward.

Carli Gray

Program Associate, AIDS United

Athena Cross, Dr.P.H.

Vice President and Chief Program Officer, AIDS United

Founded in 2010 through the merger of AIDS Action and the National AIDS Fund, AIDS United has remained unwavering in its commitment to end the HIV epidemic in the United States through strategic grantmaking, policy and advocacy, and capacity building.

Our mission is deeply rooted in racial justice, recognizing that the fight against HIV/AIDS cannot be separated from the broader struggle for equality and human rights. Marginalized communities, including Black women, are disproportionately impacted by the epidemic due to systemic inequities such as inadequate healthcare access, economic disparities, and pervasive discrimination. At AIDS United, we understand that addressing these social justice issues is crucial for effective HIV prevention and treatment. We tirelessly advocate for policies and programs prioritizing the needs of the most impacted communities, aiming to dismantle the systemic barriers perpetuating vulnerability.

Disproportionate effects

As one of our advocates shares, “I am a patient navigator and an advocate for the community. I love empowering and uplifting women and children of color. I was born with HIV, and I believe in thriving with HIV.”

The statistics are stark: Black women account for 60% of new HIV diagnoses among women in the United States despite representing only 13% of the female population. Black transgender women face an even higher risk, underscoring the urgent need for focused interventions and new methods for our toolbox.

One method in AIDS United’s toolbox is the Melanated Movement Initiative, a groundbreaking program designed to uplift Black communities and address the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS among Black women of all experiences. The role of women in their communities to spread education is vital to addressing the HIV disparity that affects all people, making their input crucial to HIV prevention as well as care.

Another advocate in the program notes, “As a cisgender Black woman, I often feel we are left behind in public health campaigns. This program provided me opportunities as a Black woman to share my own journey of sexual health safety and to be a role model to other Black women looking to take the next step in protecting themselves from acquiring an HIV infection. It was vital, to me, to talk about PrEP and its connections to sex positivity and healthy sex because so much of the conversation around HIV includes sex shaming, sex blaming, and generally negative connotations. I believe more Black women will be receptive to and willing to engage in discussions regarding HIV safety when they are less laden with sexual stigma, shame, and a white-centric understanding of sex and communication.”

Ending the epidemic

Ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic for Black women requires a multifaceted approach. Comprehensive sex education, access to quality healthcare services, and addressing social determinants of health are essential components. The Melanated Movement Initiative exemplifies our dedication to partnership and allyship. Harnessing the collective power of both individuals and institutions, such as Youth and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), the Melanated Movement Initiative strives to drive meaningful change within Black communities, regardless of age or proximity to resources.

“Melanated Movement Initiative has provided a platform for Black women to empower each other [and] have the right to make decisions for their own body, healthcare, and lifestyle,” says another program advocate. “Melanated Movement Initiative has provided a space where Black women can connect and show each other you are not alone, and we go through the same issues. This platform also brings awareness to healthcare and the community of what is needed for Black women to thrive. Melanated Movement Initiative is the first time I have told my story to the world. It has brought me confidence in knowing I have a voice that the community can learn from. It brings me joy to see Black women represented on a campaign in a positive light.”

Comprehensive sex education that is inclusive and culturally sensitive is essential. This education should encompass topics like safe sex practices, consent, and HIV prevention methods, including pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), while expanding access to quality healthcare services. One participant highlighted, “Melanated Movement taught me to establish healthy boundaries and work on what healthy boundaries look like for me.”

This effort includes making HIV testing readily available, ensuring access to antiretroviral therapy for those living with HIV, and providing mental health support to address the stigma and psychological impact associated with the disease.

As another advocate explains, “I got on PrEP because I wanted to lead by example. How can I be an advocate and educator and not lead by example? I am a single, cis[gender] Black woman living in Atlanta who is sexually active. I like it because it puts my sexual health in my hands and not on my partner.”

The future is one of health equity, where systemic barriers are dismantled, and all individuals, regardless of their background, can access the care and support they need. AIDS United’s work to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States is a testament to the power of compassion, collaboration, and relentless advocacy. By focusing on empowerment, partnership, and advocacy, we are paving the way for a future where HIV/AIDS is no longer a public health crisis, but a chapter in history. The fight continues, fueled by a vision of a world where everyone can live with dignity, free from the shadow of HIV/AIDS.

Next article