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Racial profiling and the mass incarceration of Black people will always be an important topic to address. But according to an op-ed in The New York Times, the issue may also be connected to the growing number of women who are dying from AIDS.

As for the specific cause of the increase, it is unknown. According to the Times, The rate of Black women being infected by HIV is 20 times higher than for white women. In 2004, HIV/AIDS was a major health issue as it emerged as the leading cause of death for Black women ages 25-34. Even Hillary Clinton took note of the impact HIV is having as she mentioned during a 2007 Democratic primary debate, “If H.I.V./AIDS were the leading cause of death of white women between the ages of 25 and 34, there would be an outraged outcry in this country.”

Overall, the reality is eye-opening, with African-Americans accounting for roughly half of all new infections and deaths from HIV/AIDS, despite making up about 12 percent of the of the population in the United States.

“Given that men who have sex with men account for a majority of H.I.V. cases among both Black and white men, the spike in H.I.V. infections among Black women has perplexed public health officials,” the Times stated. Because most gay men do not have female sexual partners and there are relatively low rates of infection among non-Black women, and because rates of injection drug use or unprotected sex among Black women are no higher than for other groups, the rapid increase in H.I.V./AIDS cases among Black women has been hard to account for. But several public health studies now suggest that because people tend to select sex partners from within their own communities, higher rates of H.I.V. among men who have been in prison may raise the risk of infection in their community.”

So how does mass incarceration fit in to this? Apparently, it goes back a few decades.

From a study conducted by two public policy professors at the University of California, Berkeley, it was determined that the HIV/AIDS infection rate for Black women rose to 19 times the rate for non-Hispanic white women from 1970 to 2000, a period the Times noted as being when the “incarceration rates for Black men skyrocketed to roughly six times the rate for non-Hispanic white men.”

The professors ultimately used variety of sources to look into the connection between the developments and reached a conclusion, stating, “higher incarceration rates among Black males explain the lion’s share of the Black-white disparity in AIDS infection rates among both men and women.”

The Times goes on to reference the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention findings that the majority of prisoners with HIV are exposed to the virus before their incarceration as it lists reasons why being behind bars carries a bigger risk of being infected with HIV. Those reasons include a higher prevalence of HIV among prison populations as well as higher than average rates of sexual assault and coercive sex among men in prison. In addition, the publication acknowledged little access inmates have to condoms; injectionable drugs and tattooing and inadequate access people released from prison have to health care and treatment because of unemployment and poverty were given for the incarceration/HIV issue.

Adding to this is the realization that high incarceration rates not only decrease the number of men in Black communities but also damage social relationships, “which may increase the number of concurrent sexual partners each man has.”

Nevertheless, the exact transmission rates for prisoners are unknown. Although secretive or closeted bisexuals have been blamed for the HIV increase among heterosexual Black women, little evidence supports the belief of higher rates of bisexuality among Black Americans who are not in prison.

For more of the Times’ analysis on the increase in Black women dying of AIDS, click here.

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7 thoughts on “Is Mass Incarceration The Reason Black Women Are Dying Of AIDS?

  1. So it seems the problem is more of a Behavioral issue HIV has been around for 35+
    years the only thing that has changed is better drugs and treatments you still get infected the same as always so the key word is BEHAVIOR

  2. African American Woman on said:

    My sisters, take better care of yourself. Not having sex won’t kill you, but having it with a man who’s status you don’t know just get well might. We have so much power, yet we give it away to men who don’t even deserve a second look. Men will only live up to the standards women set. It appears those standards are much too low. Use condoms EVERY time and get tested regularly and, please don’t take a man’s word that he is disease free-make him prove it.

  3. Great!!! So now we are disappearing at an alarming rate? It’s enough there aren’t enough brothers, single, unmarried without children with or without an education to go around, but we are scrapping the bottom of the barrel and disrespecting ourselves to settle? No sistah’s, you have uplift yourself, and move on from those situations…Use your gaydar, or if you know your man is doing something unmentionable that can cause him to crap his life or part of his life away….HE ISN’T FOR YOU. This man is selfish, and destructive, and will do anything it takes for quick money, status, etc. If your relationship ends in your man going to jail, prison…it’s not about holding him down, it’s about, FOOL what in the hell have you done? Black women you don’t have to settle, just move on to another chapter of your life, and leave him contemplating his own behavior and lifestyle. You can love this brother, but love yourself more!!!! Black on black crime, dirty cops, drugs, and evil women are taking out brothers out, and soon we will be viewing them in the Smithsonian.

  4. lele*–I totally agree with you. In addition, some sistah’s are so desperate to hold on to “their man”
    that they will welcome him back home from jail with open arms-not even considering what he may have been exposed to while in prison.

    Sistah’s need to LOVE THEMSELVES FIRST AND FOREMOST!!!!!!!!!

  5. Your man just did 12 years and your ass will just lay down and have sex with him straight no condom to scared to ask him to go with you to get tested if he jump off on you then you got your answer

  6. Wow not one comment dam Black women in denial and then again some of them know there men was screwing men or getting screwed in jail
    And just don’t care so you will continue to die a slow death until you raise your self esteem dam

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