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BWLI Research: Black Women and HIV/AIDS-Still fighting the epidemic

NYC based organizations, Black Women’s Learning Institute (BWLI) and national research organization NDRI-USA partnered this year to bridge the gap between research and practice in public health. The partnership centers around advancing evidence-based and emerging practices to support public health practitioners with a focus on the health, wellness and social disparities that affect Black women across their lifespan. In September 2021, BWLI launched its Engage. Empower. Educate. survey nationally with a focus on Louisville, KY and Baton Rouge, LA. According to America’s Health Rankings (2018), these two cities represent a population of Black women known to be vulnerable to higher rates of serious health issues.

The theme of World AIDS Day 2021, “Ending the HIV Epidemic: Equitable Access, Everyone’s Voice,” aligns directly with the goals of BWLI’s research which will be used to inform the work of healthcare providers across the country and ultimately impact health outcomes for Black women in a positive way.

BWLI Co-Director and expert in the field of HIV/AIDS research, Lisa Frederick, says “Black women are still disproportionately affected by HIV especially in our southern regions like Louisville and Baton Rouge yet the conversations around HIV have stopped. We must address and discuss all our risk factors including HIV if we are to achieve optimal health and wellness for Black women.”

The national survey covers a plethora of health and wellness questions to which a sample of 1600 women responded. Two thirds of the sample were Black women and 74% were from the southern US. Some of the key topics included respondents’ awareness of PrEP as an important HIV prevention tool, the effects of COVID-19 on Black families; mental health and depression concerns; healthcare discrimination and the new Texas abortion laws. While HIV remains a major public health issue that affects millions of people worldwide, the survey revealed the top three health concerns were high blood pressure, depression, and breast cancer. Only 4% of Black women respondents said that HIV/AIDS was a top health concern. Of the 1600 responding, 38% said they never get tested for HIV at all.

Although significant progress has been made with treatment in recent decades, important global targets for 2020 were not met. The proliferation of HIV stigma, knowledge gaps, and disregard for human rights are among the societal failures that allow HIV to become and remain a global health crisis. BWLI studies show that approximately 60% of Black women in the sample are unaware of PrEP as an HIV prevention option.

In recognition of World AIDS Day, BWLI partnered with Terra Leavell, Founder of the Hope Wellness Center in Louisville, KY to present a special episode of its Wellness Wednesday series featuring Leavell and Nurse Practitioner Dana Smith. Their engaging, informative conversation addresses many of the health and wellness issues raised by the BWLI survey while providing sound advice and guidance for viewers in Louisville and surrounding areas.


Black Women’s Learning Institute (BWLI) is an institute at the non-profit, NDRI, based in New York City. BWLI and NDRI-USA share a goal of building community and practitioner relationships to bridge the gap between research and practice in public health. Our partnership is centered around advancing evidence-based and emerging promising practices to support public health practitioners working with communities. BWLI focuses specifically on the health and social disparities that affect Black women. We help create sustainable change that improves health outcomes for Black women through multimodal education, and using technology to reach Black women in both urban and rural settings, especially in the deep South. BWLI’s mission is to ensure wellness across the lifespan among Black women.

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