2020 in review: Black Women First

The Black Women First Initiative is a collaborative project between AIDS United, the University of Massachusetts Lowell, the Center for Innovation in Social Work & Health at Boston University’s School of Social Work and Impact Marketing + Communications to evaluate and disseminate interventions for Black women living with HIV. Together these organizations serve as the evaluation and technical assistance provider for the initiative.

Black Women First is funded by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health Minority HIV/AIDS Fund and the Health Resources and Services Administration’s HIV/AIDS Bureau, Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program Part F: Special Projects of National Significance and includes 12 grant recipients across the country. AIDS United, in collaboration with the Black Women’s Health Imperative, will provide implementation expertise and technical assistance to the grant recipients, while UMass Lowell and CISWH will lead the project’s evaluation activities.

Under this initiative, BWF supports the design, implementation, and evaluation of bundled evidence — informed interventions for Black women living with HIV. The bundled intervention approach recognizes that multipronged strategies may more effectively address sociocultural health determinants, expand utilization of services, and ultimately improve health outcomes for Black women living with HIV. These interventions include: Enhanced patient navigation, case management or peer engagement; Red Carpet Care experience to address barriers to HIV care; Stigma reduction interventions; Use of Trauma Informed Care interventions; Self-efficacy, health literacy and resiliency interventions; and Interventions to address Intimate Partner Violence, sexual violence, or other behavioral needs.

According to the CDC, Black women represent 57% of all new HIV diagnoses among women. Black women also disproportionately experience violence, including intimate partner violence, at higher rates than other women, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. These disparities speak to the need for bundled, culturally tailored intervention services for Black women living with HIV.

2020 was a year of accomplishing critical developmental activities for the BWF ETAP team. During the year, the BWF team focused on: identifying the key study questions to guide the evaluation activities; preparing protocols to request IRB approval for the project activities; developing the instruments for data collection; and preparing the initiative’s procedure manuals and materials for marketing and communication dissemination. A formative needs assessment was also conducted with all the grantee sites. The assessment provided important background information on potential challenges to address as the bundled interventions are implemented across the sites in 2021. In addition, the BWF team began planning and scheduling the activities for 2021, including all-grantee meetings and site visits for the year.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the BWF ETAP is planning to conduct many activities, including trainings, site visits, and all-grantee meetings, virtually. The ETAP is also working to support grant recipients as they plan to launch their intervention services virtually and adapt their intervention models in light of the impact of the pandemic on the women they serve.