African American Women and HIV/AIDS: Critical Responses

By Dorie J. Gilbert; Ednita M. Wright | Go to book overview

10
African American Adolescent Girls: Neglected
and Disrespected

Ella Mizzell Kelly

Although African American adolescent girls represent about 8 percent of American adolescents (U.S. Census 2000), they account for 58 percent of new AIDS cases reported among youth between the ages of thirteen and nineteen (CDC 2000).1 This frightening statistic depicts the intersecting demographics of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States where race, gender, class, and youth converge. Estimates of the numbers of U.S. youth infected with HIV vary from a low of 110,000 to a high of 250,000 (Rotheram-Borus, O'Keefe, Kracker, and Foo 2000). Ninety-two percent of identified HIV-infected youth acquire the illness through sexual transmission, and 8 percent acquire it through injection drug use (CDC 1998). Within the African American community, two subgroups are disproportionately at risk: young women who become infected primarily through heterosexual contact, and young men who engage in unprotected sex with other men.

Although both African American male and female youth are at high risk for HIV-infection, this chapter addresses the unique condition of African American adolescent females. The increasing number of African American adolescent girls infected with HIV raises the troubling question of whether the African American community can cope with an additional drain on overburdened institutions. The disproportionate number of African American adolescent girls with HIV also raises questions about our society's commitment to provide high-quality preventive services and care for these young women.

Shaping high-quality preventive services for African American adolescent girls requires a knowledge of their sexual behaviors and beliefs, as well as an understanding of the intersecting cultural, social, and ecological factors that make it more difficult for them to make wise decisions. This chapter describes current

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