a black woman with HIV in a dress cringes while a crowd of faces stares at her

You Don’t Live in the Skin I Am In

If being a Black person in the world is not hard enough, try being a Black woman with HIV. Try living in fear of the world knowing, trying to keep this secret from your family, friends, and children.

Being Black, a woman, and HIV positive

You hear some people say that we are all going through the same thing. But why does being a Black woman and HIV positive seem so different? I know you have heard of the term "double whammy" which describes two negative things or bad situations that are packed right on top of each other.

A Black woman deals with a triple whammy which is being Black, a woman, and being HIV positive. You truly can’t understand it if you don’t live in the skin I am in, now can you? Just like I can’t know how you feel being the race you are and being HIV positive.

It's different for Black women

Dealing with the violence and/or disrespect because of the color of your skin, you are left feeling unwanted in a world that you were born and raised in. Being stereotyped as you walked through a store and being followed or fearful of being gunned down for just being you.

Black women have been shot and killed and their names are forgotten about. Black women experience a higher poverty rate and are twice as likely to be imprisoned.1 They are also being put in prison for having an addiction. But some think that all women deal with the same thing, funny right? And how can you know if you don’t live in the skin, I am in?

We have been raped and beaten by the hands of men who claim that they love us. But somehow, we are looked at as if it were our own fault, with nothing being done about it. We are looked at as just another Black woman, angry and cold.

Being overlooked has to stop

Now, how about living with HIV as a Black woman, facing disparities? We live in a different world that you cannot understand, dealing with the stigma among those who claim they love us or moving from state-to-state because someone shared your status.

We are ghosts among those who are involved in this so-called fight. We are not being seen, even though we have the highest rate of new HIV diagnosis.1 Being overlooked has to stop.

We must continue to tell our stories

The shame of a virus that we did not ask for, but yet still we hide, cry, and pretend it is not there. Only to keep going, living decades of not telling anyone - not the church or even the closest person to you - because of that mental fear or internalized stigma, seeing yourself as they would see you. And how can you know if you don’t live in the skin I am in?

Black women, continue to share your lived experiences. It will inspire, uplift, and encourage your sisters who don’t know where to turn or who to talk to because we live in the skin we're in.

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