Black Women for Wellness Your Health is Your WealthÂ Â
Opening the Dialogue: Black Women and Sexually Transmitted Diseases
For a myriad of reasons, our community seems to have a difficult time talking about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and AIDS. Perhaps it is the negative stigma attached to the topic, or the fear of judgment by our families and peers. The fact is, we need to open the dialogue--the Black community is disproportionally affected by HIV/AIDS, with our women having higher rates of several STDs than women of other racial and ethnic groups.
Recent data from the Kaiser Family Foundation states that while Blacks represent 12 percent of the total United States population, we account for 45 percent of new HIV cases and 46 percent of people living with the disease.
Less commonly discussed is the rate of STDs in our community. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that about 48 percent of all Black girls aged 14-19 have an STD, compared with 20 percent of girls from other racial and ethnic groups. In this study, it was shown that Black teenagers had higher rates of STDs such as Chlamydia, human papilloma virus (HPV) and herpes simplex virus.
The numbers are similar in Los Angeles County. According to the Los Angeles County 2007 Annual Report, Black women ages 15-19 are more at risk for Chlamydia than their White and Latina counterparts; our girls are ten times more likely to contract Chlamydia than White girls and four times more likely to contract Chlamydia than Latina girls. Additionally, about half of the gonorrhea cases reported were found in Black women; 20 percent of those were found in Black girls aged 15-19.
This month, a group of scholars, public health advocates and grassroots leadership will attend Black Women for Wellness' RESPECT! Symposium at the California Science Center to discuss, as a reproductive justice issue, the effects of AIDS and STDs on the health and future of Black women and girls. Our community must recognize the urgency of the spread of AIDS and sexually-transmitted diseases and work together to save our women and girls.
We need to talk about this with our mothers, daughters, sisters and friends. We need more community leaders speaking up--with urgency--about the alarming rates of disease in our community. Our young girls need women who can be stronger role models and men who can be encouraging father figures. We need our community to be informed--studies show that roughly two-thirds of our youth wrongly assume that health care providers routinely test for STDs, while less than half are actually being screened. We need to recognize that this is a problem that is growing by the minute. We can't sit idly by and watch our women suffer. We must act now.
- Janette Robinson-Flint is Executive Director of Black Women for Wellness, a Los Angeles-based organization committed to healing, educating, inspiring and supporting Black women. The organization, in partnership with California Family Health Council and LA Care, is hosting a free day-long symposium on October 29, entitled RESPECT: Inclusion & Integrity of African Americans in Health Care. For more information on the symposium and Black Women for Wellness, please visit: http://www.bwwla.com.