National Women’s Health Week is an important opportunity to uplift the unique health care needs of cis and trans women and to support the many women-led, HIV-focused organizations across the country.
40% of the membership of AIDS United’s Public Policy Council are organizations that are led by women. Public Policy Council members such as Positive Women’s Network as well as Black Women’s Health Imperative are organizations led by women that are committed to the health and wellbeing of women living with and vulnerable to HIV. Their leadership is critical to ensuring an intersectional approach to ending the epidemic, and we are proud to work with their teams on our various policy initiatives that impact women’s health.
Women face a number of unique challenges when it comes to HIV. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, women living with and vulnerable to HIV face a multitude of challenges when it comes to obtaining information regarding HIV. This includes socioeconomic barriers such as poverty, cultural inequities and intimate partner violence. Women living with HIV also face a greater risk of other sexually transmitted infections and the possibility of developing cervical cancer than those who are not living with HIV.
Women of color are disproportionately impacted by HIV. In 2018, Black women accounted for nearly 60% of HIV diagnoses among women, while only accounting for 13% of women in the country. HIV is much more prevalent among Black and Latina women than for white women.
Organizations in our communities need to focus on racial justice and provide culturally competent services in order to curb the disproportionate impact of the HIV epidemic on women of color.
Ensuring a full spectrum of sexual and reproductive health care for all of our community members is crucial to ending HIV in the US. We look forward to the day that abortion care rights are codified into law and protected through rescinding the Hyde Amendment. This harmful amendment bans the use of federal funds for abortion care, leaving many low-income or federally employed women unable to access the care they need.
Another action that Congress can take is to reintroduce and pass the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act, which builds on existing federal programs by presenting a comprehensive policy vision for sex education. Comprehensive sex education allows young people to center risk-awareness, consent, and pleasure as they become sexually active – all skills bringing us closer to ending the HIV epidemic. This bill also has the potential to improve the health of young LGBTQ+ women, who have traditionally not been included in conversations around sex education.
There is also much we can do to protect the rights of transgender women.
With transgender women, particularly transgender women of color, bearing a disproportionate burden when it comes to new cases of HIV, it is past time that we center the needs of transgender women.
We cannot end the HIV epidemic without taking an intersectional approach. Ending HIV means we must take into consideration the health of all women in our communities and provide comprehensive, inclusive and affirming care.