HIV in Black Women and Birthing People

by | Oct 23, 2023 | Blog

Black women in the U.S. are disproportionately affected by HIV, making up more than 50% of new cases in women. In 2019, 57% of people with diagnosed Perinatal HIV in the US were Black and 91% HIV cases in Black women were transmitted through heterosexual contact. HIV also disproportionately affects Black trans and gender expansive populations, who may also be pregnant or parenting. Local data (St. Louis City & County) follows these same trends.

According to Dr. Charlene Flash, HIV Specialist, “what the data shows, is that when you compare Black women and white women, who are infected with HIV, the Black women who become infected with HIV actually have fewer sexual partners, are more likely to use condoms, and yet are more likely to become infected with HIV because there’s more HIV in the communities in which they’re having sex.”

Despite Black women and birthing people being disproportionately affected by HIV, they are also more likely to experience barriers to accessing PrEP, an effective drug that prevents HIV infections. Systemic barriers, such as social stigma and medical racism, are major factors in preventing Black women from accessing PrEP, according to public health researchers, doctors, and those who provide HIV prevention and treatment services.

How can perinatal transmission be prevented?

Since HIV can be passed to a baby during pregnancy, childbirth, or breast/chestfeeding, the CDC recommends that every person who is pregnant or planning to get pregnant gets tested for HIV as soon as possible. In the event of a positive test, HIV treatment can help pregnant people stay healthy and greatly reduce the risk of passing the infection to their baby or partner (see additional recommendations).

Local resources are available

Free HIV/STI testing is available through Health Stop St. Louis (St. Louis City) and St. Louis County Sexual Health Clinic. Free at-home test kits can also be ordered online and will be mailed quickly in discreet packaging. There are many local agencies that can prescribe PrEP and distribute other prevention methods, like condoms.

Learn more about HIV prevention

This week (October 22-28) is PrEP Week. Events will be held throughout the week on various topics related to PrEP:


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