The Face of HIV in Texas: Minorities and Women


In 2004, Texas ranked number four in the nation in the number of HIV/AIDS cases. Accordingly, Black people represented the fastest growing population living with HIV/AIDS in Texas. The Texas Department of State Health Services reports that in 2004 both Blacks and Whites represented 38 percent of living HIV/AIDS cases, except Black people only made up 12 percent of the general population. In other words, the living HIV/AIDS rate for Black people was four times higher than for Whites and almost five times higher than for Hispanics. In addition, Black people had the largest number of new HIV/AIDS cases in 2004. Because of this, HIV/AIDS organizations are being created in order to target Black people, particularly young Black people, in Texas.

One place this can be seen is in Houston, which has the largest percentage of people living with HIV/AIDS in Texas (32.3 percent). It is also where you will find the AIDS Foundation of Houston, Positive Efforts, and Families Under Urban & Social Attack (FUUSA), all of which are involved in the Mayor's State of Emergency Task Force, also known by its website address ItsRealHouston.org. The Task Force started in 1999 when the governor announced a State of Emergency because of the rise of HIV in the African-American community. Today, the Task Force continues reaching out to youth by hosting events such as the concert held last week in recognition of National HIV Testing Day, called Hip Hop 4 HIV: Know Your Status. The Task Force teamed up with area organizations and handed out free tickets to people aged 15-30 who got tested for HIV.

In Texas, young women make up the other fastest growing population living with HIV. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, nearly two thirds of both males and females diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 2004 were between the ages of 25 and 44, although females tended to be slightly younger than males. In addition, almost half of newly diagnosed females were in females under 35 years old, compared to 41 percent of males. This means that the largest proportion and rate of new cases for females is among 25-34 year olds. With regards to Black women, they made up the majority (62 percent) of all females living with HIV/AIDS. Unfortunately, this reminded me of what Senator Clinton said last week during the debate: "If HIV/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."

While I think there is already an outraged outcry in this country for those living with HIV, I think it needs to be louder. For example, I think ending abstinence-only education, like RH Reality Check's petition aims to do, is one step in the right direction. I think that specifically targeting at-risk populations with things like concerts and online campaigns, like the organizations in Houston are doing, is another way. I also hope people will take what Senator Clinton said and turn that into action as well. If what she said infuriates you, but you know it is true, then do something about it!

The YouTube video below features Ms. Dana Gray who is the chair for the Task Force's Advocacy Committee. In the video she speaks briefly with Kwame T. Hall from Texas Southern University in Houston. Although she is an adult now, Ms. Gray speaks about how she acquired HIV when she was a university student. She also talks about her experiences as a woman living with HIV and the work she does to educate people about it.

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