Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

Reframing School Drop out as a Factor in HIV/AIDS Vulnerability: HIV-Positive Black Women Sound-Off on Education as HIV Prevention

Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

Reframing School Drop out as a Factor in HIV/AIDS Vulnerability: HIV-Positive Black Women Sound-Off on Education as HIV Prevention

Article excerpt

Intervention

African Americans historical relationship with the US public institutions of health and education is complicated and has resulted in widespread disparities in health and educational attainment for many Black women (Morris, 2012; Crenshaw, 2014; Bayne-Smith, 1996). Freudenberg & Ruglis (2007) note the gravity of the connection between education and health, suggesting that educational attainment is among the most powerful indicators for good health. Presuming educational achievement can help prevent poor health and, given the deeply embedded inequality in these institutions along with their contentious relationship with the African American community, it is not surprising that HIV/AIDS has had such a devastating impact on this population. HIV/AIDS is a global epidemic and in the US alone more than 1.1 million people live with HIV. Today Black folk represent 44% of new HIV infections although African Americans comprise 12% of the population (CDC, 2013). Despite a significant decline for all women's rates of HIV in 2008-2010, Black women's rates are still significantly higher than other women. Rates of HIV infections in African American women, once 15 times that of other women, has surged to 20 times greater (CDC, 2012). Given these statistics and consideration to the often-contentious relationship of African Americans to US public health and education systems I am compelled to examine if the inequalities in HIV/AIDS among Black women are connected to inequalities in educational attainment for Black women.

The educational achievement gap for African Americans is well documented. African American school dropout rates doubled at 4.8% in comparison to White rates at 2.4% for the 2008-2009 academic year (JBHE, 2012). In that year alone 77,000 African Americans dropped out of high school. Overall, 508,000 had no diplomas, G.E.D., or enrollment in classes during the same year (JBHE, 2012). In spite of these statistics scholars have framed the dropout crisis as one involving African American boys, as if Black girls are faring well. There is a crisis within the crisis; the silence around African American girls and research and interventions on Black boys overshadows emerging literature on Black girls making it seem as if girls are not in crisis (Crenshaw, 2014). For that reason there is sparse research that examines or makes inquiries about African American girls (Crenshaw, 2014; Black, Butler, Lewis, & Darensbourg, 2011). Missed opportunities to substantiate the crisis as racial notes Crenshaw (2004) is overridden by intra-gender data on school dropouts that highlight gender differences. Crenshaw (2014) argues that analyzing the dropout crises through the intersecting lens of both race and gender illuminates it as a racial crisis rather than the previously held view that is was just a crisis for Black boys (Black, Butler, Lewis, & Darensbourg, 2011) or the result of a gender gap.

Intersecting exclusionary practices grounded in gender, race, and class oppression work simultaneously to inform Black women's lived experience (Collins, 2000; Crenshaw, 1991) and to act as a reason and catalyst for Black women's social resistance (Naples, 1998). Today African American girls and women are confronted with these intersecting oppressions in public health and public education. When compared with girls of other races and ethnicities Black girls have higher dropout rates (Morris, 2012) and lead in the rates of new HIV infections among women (CDC, 2013). Because researchers extrapolate school dropout information primarily from studies done on Black boys I chose to focus on Black girls/women. I consider if there is a connection between the crisis in African American women dropouts with the crisis of new HIV infections for African American women. I investigate 30 HIV-positive African American women on their perspectives and stated concerns on effective HIV prevention as informed by their lived experience and situated knowledge. …

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