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  the inherent gender bias focused only on the needs of African American men and rendered women invisible.

 

 

The Era of Black Woman and HIV/AIDS

By Irene Monroe

 

The unrelenting tenacity of HIV/AIDS has taught us much about the preciousness and fleetingness of life. And it has also taught us about the various people — across race, class and gender — who wore and continue to wear the face of this disease.

With this week marking the 25th year of AIDS, the face of the disease is most often a heterosexual woman. And no group of women is as affected by this epidemic as women of African descent — throughout the U.S. and on the continent of Africa.

However, the invisibility of the plight of African American women and their struggle against the AIDS epidemic was never so glaringly obvious as in the 2004 vice presidential debate between Dick Cheney and John Edwards.

And the invisibility of my group’s plight has less to do with African American women’s agency to combat the epidemic than with how race and gender biases inherent in the problem collude with African American women’s efforts to get help.

Gwen Ifill, an African American female journalist with PBS’ “Washington Week” and moderator of the vice presidential debate, brought the issue of AIDS in the U.S. front and center when she asked the men to comment on its devastating impact on African American women.

“I want to talk to you about AIDS, and not about AIDS in China or Africa, but AIDS right here in this country, where black women between the ages of 25 and 44 are 13 times more likely to die of the disease than their counterparts. What should the government’s role be in helping to end the growth of this epidemic?” Ifill asked.

Neither man could answer the question.

When the color of the epidemic shifted from white to black, the inherent gender bias focused only on the needs of African American men and rendered women invisible.

And when gender became a new lens to track the epidemic, white women were the focus. The invisibility of African American women in this epidemic has much to do with how the absence of a gendered race analysis makes African American women invisible to the larger society.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit health organization, African American women account for 72 percent of all new HIV cases in women, and they are 23 times more likely to be infected with the virus than white women.

But the disparities within the healthcare system also contribute to the disproportionately higher number of HIV cases among African American women, which directly affects their quality of life and the spread of HIV.

The black church continues to play a part in the epidemic because women with AIDS are as unwelcome in the black church as gay people. 

One of our sister warriors in Boston, Belynda Dunn, died of AIDS in March 2002 at the age of 49. A tireless AIDS activist and a heterosexual African American church woman, Dunn’s death was the wake-up call to the African American community and the black church that HIV/AIDS is not solely a gay disease, but an equal opportunity virus. 

In African American communities across this country, the disease still shows no sign of abating. These women have hid and still hide from the community and each other. And with its harsher judgment against women with HIV/AIDS, African American women are less likely than any other group to seek help.

And although many of us in our black communities averted our eyes pretending we did not see them, we all saw them. We all knew them, and we all silently watched them die because we have still done nothing to stem the epidemic.

The feminization of this disease makes many of us AIDS activists and scholars wonder if the same amount of money, concern, communication, and moral outrage that was put into white gay men with the disease will be put into curbing its spread among women.

Because of the paucity of funds and prevention strategies targeted to African American women with HIV/AIDS, we have not adequately come up with community-based approaches to HIV/AIDS prevention and education for black women. Few if any services speak to these specific needs of black women.

The AIDS epidemic among African American women is also symptomatic of the dialogue African American women need to have about their bodies and sexuality, which has been choked for centuries by a “politic of silence.”

The silence African American women created around their bodies and sexuality that had been exploited during slavery was viewed as a revolutionary act against the white oppressive gaze. Only through secrecy could African American women achieve the psychic and sexual space to protect their bodies and sexuality.

However, in breaking the “politic of silence,” mothers, daughters, and grandmothers must access their beliefs, attitudes, experiences, and perceptions of HIV/AIDS. 

African American women are no more promiscuous than white women; however, stereotypes about African American women’s bodies and sexualities prevent the proper prevention and education needed to stem the tide.

With the image of the “strong black women” who can endure anything and “make a way out of no way,” her strength is either demonized as being emasculating of black men or impervious to the human condition. 

Consequently, African American woman’s humanity is distorted and made invisible through a prism of racist and sexist stereotypes. So too is our suffering.

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

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#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

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#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter

Non-fiction

#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
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#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

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#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
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#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Super Rich: A Guide to Having it All

By Russell Simmons

Russell Simmons knows firsthand that wealth is rooted in much more than the stock  market. True wealth has more to do with what's in your heart than what's in your wallet. Using this knowledge, Simmons became one of America's shrewdest entrepreneurs, achieving a level of success that most investors only dream about. No matter how much material gain he accumulated, he never stopped lending a hand to those less fortunate. In Super Rich, Simmons uses his rare blend of spiritual savvy and street-smart wisdom to offer a new definition of wealth-and share timeless principles for developing an unshakable sense of self that can weather any financial storm. As Simmons says, "Happy can make you money, but money can't make you happy."

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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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posted 22 June 2006

 

 

 

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