HIV rates in Washington DC have been skyrocketing among African American women. Those who are taking the lead are coming right out of the church and pushing the community to get tested. They are also speaking boldly about how the black church is not dealing with the HIV crisis directly.
“Unfortunately, the black church just doesn’t want to deal with s*x, but it is very important to talk about it, especially here in D.C., where we have such a high AIDS rate,” Patrice Gayle, one of the organizers for the testing, said. “So many black African American women are contracting the disease, the black church has to be in the forefront of this.”
The Washington DC Department of Health recently announced alarming data stating that black women were at the top of the list in HIV infections. In DC, 90% of all women with HIV are black, and roughly 20 – 30 percent of those with the infection don’t know that they have it.
The rate of heterosexual black women catching the infection has doubled in the last two years, from 6.3% to 12.1% in the poorest neighborhoods. The Center for Disease Control has become alarmed about the epidemic and have partnered with the National Association of People with AIDS to have “national testing day.”
The Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ is moving ahead of the envelope by pushing for testing right now. Older women are also getting in line to get tested as well as young ones. The church has created the “Love in Action HIV & AIDS ministry,” which is ahead of the curve many black churches, some of whom don’t want to get involved with the crisis.
Sharron Tendai, training and communications manager for Health HIV, an advocacy group in DC, told the Washington Post that she is excited about the effort.
“It is important for black women to be empowered and to get an HIV test because it is important that we take care of ourselves in the same way that we take care of our families and our households,” said Tendai, 29, a wife and mother of a 7-month-old daughter.
Some are saying that the women are afraid to ask their partners to get an HIV test before having s*x.
“A lot of women think that getting tested for HIV might cause an argument or lead to a breakup in their relationship,” said Laila Patrick, an HIV tester. “Often, it is not getting tested for HIV but the issues that go along with getting tested that presents the problem.”