Alameda Times-Star (10.16.03) Rebecca Vesely - Tuesday,
HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death among African- American
women ages 25-34, and African-American women are the fastest
growing population with AIDS in California, according to the
state Department of Health Services.
In an effort to break down the stigma of the disease, the
Oakland chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women
unveiled a new billboard campaign on Oct. 14. The "Sistahs
getting real about HIV/AIDS" signs in Oakland, Richmond and
San Jose are meant to raise public awareness. They advertise a
toll- free hotline and Internet resources for African-American
women and their families.
As of 2002, approximately 526 women in Alameda County had been
diagnosed with AIDS, representing 65 percent of all female
cases there. The number with HIV is estimated to be much
higher. Only about half of African-American women who are
tested in the county return for their results, compared to
about two-thirds nationwide.
"One of the reasons African-American women don't [return for
their results] is that HIV/AIDS holds a high stigma and women
feel they will be isolated from family and friends," said
Shirley Manly-Lampkin, founder of AllCare Health in Oakland,
which runs support groups for HIV-positive women.
Dr. Lisha Wilson, medical director of the Magic Johnson Clinic
in Oakland and San Francisco, said shame allows the disease to
take its toll on this population. Delayed testing causes black
women to enter treatment sicker, often with AIDS instead of
the more-treatable HIV.
HIV activist Paulette Hogan said she feels the taint of being
infected, saying family and friends "ran away" when she
mentioned her status. "People still have this stupid stigma
that it's a gay man's disease," she said.