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Why We Should Care About National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

by David J. Johns and Rev. Carmarion D. Anderson


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From pulling down the Confederate flag at the Columbia, S.C. statehouse after all those years of inflicting pain, winning a number of political office campaigns including the recent Atlanta mayoral seat, and stepping out of the shadows and into the forefront of the “Me Too” movement, Black women have led the charge on many issues that affect our communities with their #BlackGirlMagic.  

Yet, despite the leaps women – especially Black women – have made over countless hurdles, an issue that continues to affect them at disproportionate rates is HIV/AIDS.  

Black women are fighting the good fight each day to disrupt the status quo and literally save lives, but is enough being done to save theirs?

Among all women diagnosed with HIV in 2015, 61 percent were Black. What’s even more alarming about this statistic is that it does not include transgender women. In the United States, it is estimated that almost 1 million adults identify as transgender – half of whom are Black – yet the rate of new HIV diagnoses among transgender women more than triples the national average among other groups.

In the wake of National Women & Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD), an annual observance on March 10 that sheds light on the impact of HIV and AIDS on women and girls, addressing these disparities remains critical to achieving an HIV/AIDS-free generation.

The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), the nation’s leading civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and same gender loving (LGBTQ/SGL) people, including people living with HIV/AIDS, maintains a commitment to empowering the black community by providing access to information, resources and prevention. Our work also includes protecting and expanding critical investments in resources to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS.

Of course, abstinence is the surest way to avoid HIV, but if you decide to have sex, there are simple, effective ways to have sex-positive conversations about affirmative consent, as well as steps to protect yourself and others from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

In order to truly to change the narrative of the impact of HIV/AIDS on our Black women, we must first recognize that there are prevention challenges, such as high levels of financial vulnerability, marginalization, discrimination, exclusion and a lack of knowledge on safeguarding against infection and transmission of the disease.

According to the Health and Human Services Office of Women Health, if you are an HIV-negative woman and are in a mutually monogamous, ongoing relationship with an HIV-infected partner, you can talk to a doctor about taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a daily pill that can work to keep the virus from taking hold in your body. Daily PrEP can reduce the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90 percent. However, PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) is another preventative option you should also be aware of if you think you have been exposed to HIV. It must be used in consultation with your health care provider or an emergency room doctor within 72 hours after a possible exposure to HIV to stop the virus from advancing. PEP should only be used in emergencies, whereas PrEP is a daily form of treatment to prevent HIV.  

In our ongoing advocacy and fight against HIV/AIDS, we also cannot neglect our transgender sisters. We find that many policymakers and service providers fail to address the needs of transgender women as a population separate from men who have sex with men (MSM).  As a result, we never have a complete picture of the disproportionate impact on transgender women and girls. Also, we do not have those tough conversations with trans* and gender non-conforming people to ensure that they are aware and have access to resources to protect their health and wellness. Until the rights of transgender women are protected by law, transgender women will continue to be vulnerable to HIV.

NBJC is dedicated to changing practices to ensure that Black women and girls, inclusive of those with transgender experience, receive the resources and information they need, in addition to being counted properly in HIV research in our nation. PrEP awareness and acceptance in cisgender and transgender women is a key priority and must be pushed across Black communities.

In the same way national and community organizations come together to show support for women and girls impacted by HIV and AIDS every March 10, this intent should continue beyond this one day. HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention is a 365-day matter. It is truly important that medical professionals and providers develop competency to fully serve and support diverse members of the Black community. NBJC continues to serve in this capacity by facilitating professional development and advocating on the community’s behalf.  Historically, silence has been the norm in Black communities due to generations of trauma combined with systemic racism. This has led to the expectation that issues and problems are not to be spoken about. If we love our Black women as much as we say we do then it’s time to remove the muzzle on this conversation and do something about the impact of HIV/AIDS. A great place to start is making an appointment to get tested today. For more information or resources, visit


David J. Johns serves is the executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, the nation’s leading civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and same gender loving (LGBTQ/SGL) people, including people living with HIV/AIDS. He is known for his passion, public policy acumen and fierce advocacy for youth

Carmarion D. Anderson is the executive director of Black Transwomen, Inc., a national non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization with a mission to uplift the voice, heart, and soul of Black Trans women. As well, a Prevention Public Health Consultant with a focus on HIV/AIDS and other health disparities in marginalized communities. She is a vibrant and visible trans-person who has worked tirelessly to spread the message of Inclusion to the world.

The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) is a civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and same gender loving (LGBTQ/SGL) people, including people living with HIV/AIDS.