UCLA co-sponsoring conference on impact of HIV/AIDS on black women

Newswise — UCLA is co-sponsoring a major conference spotlighting the impact of HIV/AIDS on black women at the local, state and national levels – and what to do about it.

A Paradigm Shift: The Impact of HIV/AIDS on African American Women and Families”, running Nov. 2-3 at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, takes a women-centered approach toward HIV, sexually transmitted diseases, and reproductive health – something that has rarely been explored, says Gail Wyatt, professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, and an associate director of the UCLA AIDS Institute.

“There has not been this kind of attention given to HIV positive African American women or women at risk for HIV/AIDs infection for 30 years,” said Wyatt who is helping to spearhead the conference. “We are advocating for women-centered approaches and offering to address reproduction and STIs in the same clinic. We are also advocating for women to conduct research on women. Decades ago this was the goal but now women investigators are underrepresented.”

The rates of HIV infection in black women have remained stagnant, Wyatt said. Yet the same approaches that have been developed for men are still being used with women. These approaches simply do not work for women for a number of reasons—for instance, they don’t address HIV’s effects on reproductive health.

“We need a paradigm shift,” she said. “Services for reproductive health are often not available at an HIV clinic and yet reproduction is a part of a woman’s body.”

Information in HIV clinics only covers HIV and does not address the sexual and reproductive effects that women need to hear, she said.

“Women often have to travel miles to receive a pelvic exam to protect and care for their reproductive health,” Wyatt said. “STI's are sometimes described in terms of transmission and not the effects on an unborn child if women remain untreated and deliver vaginally. Unintended pregnancies are women's primary concern -- yet the literature assumes that HIV transmission is.”

 A woman centered approach would integrate their health concerns, testing and treatment, and mental health, she said. Women with a history of disease transmission should be counseled about becoming pregnant and delivering a child that is not infected with a transmittable disease. This information should be offered to all women, not just those who might be at risk for HIV transmission.

 “Women's sexual health has been overlooked for over 30 years in an attempt to treat one size to fit all,” she said.  “It doesn't and women's health has suffered.”

Dr. Joycelyn Elders, the former United States Surgeon General, will deliver the keynote speech.

Other presenters in addition to Wyatt are:

  • Norweeta Milburn, professor-in-residence of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the Semel Institute
  • Angela Rye, principal and CEO of IMPACT Strategies, a political advocacy firm in Washington D.C.
  • Joy De Gruy, researcher and author of “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing”
  • Camara Jones, research director on social determinants of health and equity in the Division of Adult and Community Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
  • Gabriel Maldonado, founder and CEO of TruEvolution
  • Donna Hubbard McCree, associate director for health equity, Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention in the National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Valerie Spencer, social services consultant specializing in HIV prevention and services delivery transgender persons
  • Faye Z. Belgrave, professor of health psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Cheryl Tawede Grills, director of the Psychology Applied Research Center at Loyola Marymount University
  • Chandi Moore, who works in HIV testing and counseling at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles
  • Lorece Edwards, director of community practice and outreach and associate professor of behavioral health sciences at the Morgan State University School of Community Health and Policy
  • Timothy Webb, Jr., an HIV/AIDS advocate
  • Lashonda Y. Spencer, associate professor of clinical pediatrics at the Keck School of Medicine at USC
  • Kimberly Parker, faculty member in health studies at Texas Woman’s University.