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Celebrating a health care hero on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Celebrating a health care hero on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

<p>Celebrating a health care hero on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day</p>
youtube / US Department of Health and Human Services

Dr. Ada Stewart has devoted her life to helping her community, and is especially focused on educating Black women about HIV.

When Dr. Ada Stewart found her passion for health care, it was unfortunately at first due to losing family members to issues like heart disease, breast cancer, and alcoholism. She decided to devote her life to keeping others healthy and sacrificed all to put herself through medical school. “[Losing those family members] was really heart wrenching … I didn't want other families to deal with, you know, the loss that I had dealt with,” she said in a recent video by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“It's really all about community and service, and that's what has really guided me throughout my career,” she added. “Looking at those who are underserved and underrepresented in all walks of life. I'm still working at the same community health center with kids that I actually delivered during residency. I'm taking care of them today. I love what I do, and I love being able to serve the community, it's been a wonderful ride, been a wonderful ride.”

Dr. Stewart poses proudly with her diploma upon completing medical / US Department of Health and Human Services also recently spoke with Dr. Stewart about National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD) which is observed annually on February 7, during Black History Month. She shared her thoughts about this year’s NBHAAD theme, “Engage, Educate, Empower: Uniting to End HIV/AIDS in Black Communities.” Stewart explained that despite the progress made to end the HIV epidemic, continued education in Black communities is vital.

“We still have a long way to go,” she told “We must continue to educate our Black communities on eliminating HIV stigma and ensuring awareness regarding the importance of HIV treatment, as well as prevention. We need to change the narrative, in that HIV is no longer a death sentence due to the highly effective medications that we have available now.”

She added that health care providers bear a responsible to increase HIV awareness, noting that “as clinicians, we must remove barriers that our patients face. We must create a safe and comfortable space to discuss HIV testing, treatment, and prevention tools, such as PrEP. Educating the public at the community level is equally important.”

Dr Stewart also specially addressed issues women face in terms of HIV, particularly among Black women, including “both trans-women and our cis-women sisters.”

According to the CDC’s 2023 HIV Surveillance Report, some of the disparities among these communities can be staggering. The report notes that while Black females 13 and older made up only 13 percent of the female population in 2021, they accounted for 54 percent of HIV diagnoses among women. Factors such as racism, HIV stigma, sexism, and barriers to accessing care continue to impact this disparity. Because of this, the National HIV/AIDS Strategy has designated Black women as top priority group to serve with better-focused HIV efforts and resources.

“Additionally, we need to ensure that HIV prevention services, such as PrEP, are offered to Black women in every place that they go to for care,” added Dr Stewart. “We must create safe spaces for them and discuss any barriers they may be facing so that we, as clinicians/providers, can engage them in every step of their healthcare journey.”

Currently, Dr. Stewart serves as the lead provider and HIV specialist at Waverly Family Practice in Columbia, South Carolina. In addition to providing primary care, she offers gynecological and HIV services, as well as gender-affirming care. Stewart is the former president of the American Academy of Family Physicians and a previous member of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA). She is also a Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve and has often said that “God put me here for service, and I’m so honored and blessed to be of service to both the community and our country!”

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