By Contributor, Christina Merriweather
Poverty is expensive.
In most cases, this refers to qualifying for mortgages or securing lines of revolving credit with reasonable interest rates. The hidden cost of poverty doesn’t just hit our pockets, it also negatively impacts our health. Studies have shown that there is a strong correlation between poverty and the prevalence of HIV infection rates. Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino communities have been impacted the most, with these groups being concentrated in many of the higher poverty communities and leading in infection rates.
According to HIV/AIDS and Socioeconomic Status, an article posted in 2010 on the American Psychological Association’s website, socioeconomic status (SES) often determines access to HIV treatments and even prevention.
So what might that look like in real life?
Think of a young woman in her 20’s who is sexually active and either unemployed or underemployed and living in a high poverty area. She most likely has no access to a gynecologist or primary doctor to perform regular STI testing, so she could be infected and unknowingly passing it to her partner(s).
Or consider a man who finds out that he is HIV positive but because of housing insecurity, he’s constantly having to figure out where he can have his antiretroviral prescriptions filled or if he can even afford them. He must make the difficult choice between meds, rent and food.
These are powerful and devastating examples of the nearly impossible situations that Americans living at or below the poverty line have to face daily. Thankfully, the rate of HIV infection in the United States has slowed over the past several years, but the rates among communities of color, particularly in areas of high poverty, still remain higher than Whites. This means that there’s still work to do. Here are just a few actions that you can take today to ensure that you’re doing your part to empower communities disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS.
There are plenty of 501c3 non-profit organizations who are in the trenches doing the work of educating, building awareness, and offering resources and support in communities where the rate of HIV infection is high. Consider either volunteering your time or supporting them with a tax-deductible donation so that the work can continue. Not sure where to donate? Check out greatnonprofits.org to search for organizations in your local area. You can even check out reviews from those who have worked with the organizations to help you do some vetting before you donate your hard-earned cash.
The spread of HIV/AIDS in our communities isn’t just a public health issue; it’s an economic issue. Lobbying for more programs and policies that promote community access to employment opportunities and by extension, healthcare opportunities to marginalized communities, is something that we need to demand and hold our local legislators accountable for.
Write to your representatives about what you want to see happen in your communities and challenge them to support bills that speak to your community’s needs. Not sure who your local representatives are? Check out openstates.org. This free resource will allow you to plug in your home address and find out who represents your district. It not only provides their contact information but also what legislative committees they sit on so that you can see what topics they may influence.
PROMOTE FINANCIAL LITERACY.
Financial literacy is so important a handful of states have gone as far as to create laws mandating that it be part of the K-12 curriculum. While societal issues like systemic racism largely contribute to inequities in our healthcare system, some of our lack of access to affordable healthcare can also be attributed to financial illiteracy. Make sure that you are teaching your children about the importance of saving now and support local programs that teach this information.
The fight to end the spread of HIV/AIDS begins and ends with us. We all have our part to play in ensuring that our communities are aware, educated, safe, and appropriately cared for.
To learn more about what you can do to educate yourself about HIV/AIDS prevention and get connected with resources, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/livingwithhiv/resources.html
*Featured image via Shutterstock.com