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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
Ad Campaign Focuses on AIDS in Black Women

October 21, 2003
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.