According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black women account for the highest number of HIV infections among women compared to other races. This issue has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw a steep decline in HIV testing and diagnoses.
“If we don’t figure out how we can change the system, we’re just going to continue to keep failing Black women,” Tiara Willie, an assistant professor of mental health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told NPR.
Black women aren’t typically the first demographic to come to mind when HIV treatments are brought up. They’re primarily promoted to gay and bisexual men, the groups most commonly affected by HIV. However, many Black women are afflicted with the virus, but many lack the means and resources to treat it.
Historically, the healthcare system has neglected Black women, leaving them with fewer treatment options than their counterparts.
The CDC reported that Black women face many barriers in health care when receiving care for HIV, including racism, poverty, and general stigma. Combined with the already few treatments available, the FDA has only approved two PrEP options for women, Truvada and Apretude, out of three currently available treatments— which has left Black women more vulnerable than ever.
Moreover, Black women are often neglected when it comes to the development of these treatments. With its smaller pill size, the third available PrEP medication, Descovy, is attractive to many people and has been approved for men and transgender women. But since it was not tested on cisgender women, its efficacy is not guaranteed. This exclusion has upset many HIV advocates and researchers, who feel that by omitting cisgender women, they are left more susceptible to the virus.
Several advocates have shone a light on this issue, urging healthcare practitioners to do their due diligence as far as awareness and accessibility goes, lest Black women fall further through the cracks.