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Breaking Barriers to PrEP Uptake in Black Women

In recent years, there has been a growing movement from organizations to empower and uplift Black women in all aspects of life. This is particularly true when it comes to healthcare and ensuring equal access to prevention. An area where barriers are being broken down is the uptake of PrEP, which is a medication that can prevent HIV transmission.

Black women have historically been underrepresented in PrEP uptake. In order to truly empower and uplift Black women, it is crucial to recognize the importance of PrEP uptake in the Black community.1

PrEP uptake in Black cisgender women

PrEP should have been in immediate use for Black women in the United States, especially since Black cis-gender women have been affected by HIV at higher rates than their white counterparts.1

PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2012. It can reduce the risk of HIV transmission by 99 percent when taken as prescribed.1,2

Black women are 13 percent of the population and 60 percent of the HIV diagnoses among all women in the United States. Additionally, STIs were the highest among Black women, and this is attributed in large part to the lack of healthcare in our communities, poverty, stigma, and so many other reasons contribute to this. If society continues to ignore cisgender Black women, then the rates of STIs will continue to climb.1

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Pushing PrEP in the Black community is much needed, and we cannot keep ignoring this.

Being a Black woman living with HIV

Being a Black woman who has lived with HIV for 26 years, I can tell you about my experience every time a Black woman reaches out to me.

For one, they are often afraid because they have contracted HIV and do not know who to turn to. This breaks my heart because I remember how I felt when I received my diagnosis in 1997. I felt so alone, and I had no one to reach out to at all.

It also lets me know that we HIV educators and advocates must work harder to fix this. What about the women who are not living with HIV but also reach out with questions? I let them know about PrEP. I am always surprised by how many Black women have never even heard of PrEP. And the women who have heard of it did not know that PrEP is an option for them.

PrEP usage versus the rate of HIV

There seems to me to be a misconception that PrEP is only for gay men. There are also women who have partners who are living with HIV and do not use condoms often with their partners.

There are close to half a million heterosexual women between the ages of 18 and 59 who can benefit from using PrEP, but it has only been prescribed to 2 percent of women. Black women only represent 26 percent of the women in the United States who use PrEP.1

I will say it again: We have the highest rate of new HIV transmissions in the United States. Research states that Black cisgender women have not benefited from PrEP because of the disproportionate uptake of PrEP.1

So, what do we do about this? We all must open our eyes – something must change in all states to make this community of women more aware of their options and how PrEP can help them. Educating on prevention is lacking, and it is affecting Black women.

Empowering Black women

PrEP can provide women with a sense of empowerment but also can give them hope for a future free from the fear of contracting HIV. It will definitely help Black women to make better, informed decisions about their sexual health and well-being.

We should all want to break down those barriers that surround PrEP access, as it is a crucial step to achieving health equity and eliminating the disparities experienced by Black cis-gender women.

We all must be the change we want to see in the world. I have learned over the years that using your voice can help a great deal, but you cannot do it alone. Work to find other Black women living with and affected by HIV to help stand with you.

If you would like to access PrEP, follow this link to find resources available in your community.

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