Black women have long been the silent soldiers in the fight against HIV, often selflessly devoting their time, love, and energy to serve their local HIV communities. But now, one organization is dedicating a special day to honor these hard-working, courageous women. Next Friday, March 12, will be a day to “Celebrate & Honor Black Women in the HIV Movement.” The event is being put on by the Positive Women’s Network (PWN), “a nationwide community of women living with HIV,” as stated on its website. “Our mission is to prepare and involve all women living with HIV, in all our diversity, including gender identity and sexual expression, in all levels of policy and decision-making.”
In a statement about the event, PWN says that “Black women are often seen less, heard less, and valued less in the movement for social justice despite being organizers, activists. Meanwhile, they are also more likely to contract HIV, experience intimate partner violence, and forgo self-care, while working to maintain the household. We demand better.”
The statement goes on to note that research shows that “Black women are more likely to care for extended family members, thereby putting the needs of loved ones above their own needs. Black women are less likely to affirm self-care as a part of their mental well-being. Black women are often overlooked for promotions and leadership development.”
One especially startling statistic that indefinitely proves this cause needs attention is that fact that while Black women account for only about 13 percent of women in the U.S., they make up 58 percent of HIV diagnoses among women.
In efforts to change and bring awareness to these longstanding and unfair disparities, the special day was created. For the event, PWN is asking businesses and organizations to partner with them to honor these women in a multitude of ways — whether it be giving Black women the day off, giving them a platform to be heard, or donating free goods and services to help balance out some of the aforementioned disparities.
HIV advocate Tiommi Luckett (above right) is helping organize PWN's "Celebrate & Honor Black Women in the HIV Movement" event on March 12.
PWN will be announcing the winner of the event’s art contest on their website and social media pages on March 11. There will also be several online events happening on March 12, including a #CelebrateBlackWomen “Twitter storm” and a #CelebrateBlackWomen Town Hall meeting. They are also encouraging folks to use the following hashtags in honor of the event and these women: #TrustBlackWomen, #PayBlackWomen, #ProtectBlackWomen, and #HonorBlackWomen.
Tiommi Luckett, a communications and training assistant at PWN who has been heading up the organization of the event, says she’s excited about the impact the day could bring. She explains how much coming into contact with PWN changed her own life’s trajectory after getting diagnosed in 2012.
Luckett says the beginning of her HIV advocacy came after volunteering to speak at a summit about her experience as a trans woman living with HIV shortly after her diagnosis. PWN “really opened my eyes to what it really meant to live with HIV and that [being an advocate] means a lot in my community,” says Luckett. “I'm a trans women from the South so I was living in my own little bubble…. I didn’t even realize I had a voice."
And now that she has found that voice, Luckett is using it loud and clear to help others. She adds that the day is “not just about women living with HIV — we're celebrating all Black women in the HIV movement.”
For more detailed information about the “Celebrate & Honor Black Women in the HIV Movement” event, view a list of partnering organizations, or to sign up to participate (and get social media art & graphics to share) visit PWN.org.
Tiommi Luckett (fourth from the left) and other PWN members attending a summit.