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Black Women Have a New Way to Protect Themselves from HIV Infection
By Valerie L. Rochester, Black Women’s Health Imperative
Published February 10, 2016

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One in 32 Black women in the U.S. will be infected with HIV in her lifetime. And although the rate of new infections among Black women has decreased, new data show we continue to be far more affected by HIV than women of other races/ethnicities – after 30 plus years of the epidemic. However, we now have opportunities available that can be that light at the end of the tunnel and finally answer the question of “what will it take for Black women to get to zero new infections?”

Trying to address the impact of HIV through attitude adjustment and behavior modification alone is not enough. We must support Black women and motivate them to take control of their sexual and reproductive health, and to increase their level of self-awareness and understanding of the personal, cultural and societal barriers that may be placing them at increased risk.

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Our self-image and self-perception are strong indicators of personal risks for HIV infection, but we rarely discuss this when thinking of HIV prevention – after all, who can better protect you, but YOU.

We must promote the adoption of sound sexual health practices as self-care for Black women. Self-care is all about being self-aware and understanding what you need to be healthy and well. As Black women and natural nurturers, we often put ourselves and our health last. This must change. And we must do better in providing the tools, strategies and resources for Black women to advocate for their own protection against HIV infection.

Black women at risk for HIV infection are prime candidates for Pre-exposure prophylaxis, better known as PrEP, but many are not aware of its existence. We at the Black Women’s Health Imperative are working to change that. We have launched Let’s Talk About PrEP, a campaign to educate Black women about PrEP as a new way to protect themselves from HIV infection and take control of their sexual health. We are encouraging women to practice self-care, place themselves first and add PrEP as part of their personal HIV prevention plan that includes knowing their status, taking the medication daily, using condoms and practicing safer sex. When following these steps, PrEP has proven to be 92 percent effective in preventing HIV infection.

We are committed to working diligently to help Black women get to zero new HIV infections – promoting collaboration and dialogue with women in communities and women’s groups to ensure Black women have equal access to the latest prevention and treatment opportunities available. We are also working to ensure Black women are supported in their efforts to have control over their sexual health, practice self-love and self-care and adopt action plans that take the real-life circumstances faced by real women every day into consideration. We are prepared to meet the ongoing challenge of HIV by ensuring Black women have access to the latest information, tools and strategies to best protect themselves and their sexual health….starting with PrEP.

To find out more about the Black Women’s Health Imperative and its Let’s Talk About PrEP initiative, visit www.letstalkaboutprep.com and www.bwhi.org.

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Categories: Op-Ed | Opinion
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