Legacy Celebrates and Honors Black Women in the HIV Movement

Founded by the Positive Women’s Network in 2021, Celebrate and Honor Black Women in the HIV Movement Day is observed annually on March 12.

By Barrett White

 

In the early 1980s, Dr. Rashidah Abdul-Khabeer, a Black Muslim nurse, spent her evenings in Black gay bars in Philadelphia teaching the men to put condoms on with their teeth. Dr. Abdul-Khabeer put pressure on white-run HIV and AIDS groups to engage with Black communities and when they didn’t, she founded Bebashi, the first Black AIDS organization in the United States.

Katrina Haslip, a New York City woman living with HIV, was instrumental in getting the CDC to change its definition of AIDS to include opportunistic infections that affect women, like recurrent yeast infections and cervical cancer. Previously, the definition had only included AIDS-defining illnesses that predominated in men. That change made federal funding and disability programs available to women living with HIV, too. Haslip died in 1992, before the definition was officially changed.

Stories like Dr. Abdul-Khabeer’s and Ms. Haslip’s, though not always well-known, are not unique. Black women have been on the front lines of the fight against the HIV epidemic since the virus first became known to us. In 2021, the Positive Women’s Network set out to shine a spotlight on Black women leading the charge against HIV with the founding of Celebrate and Honor Black Women in the HIV Movement Day, to be observed annually on March 12.

“I have a Bachelor’s in Science from Lamar University,” says Joy Collins, Wellness Host, who one of the first faces you see entering Wellness Bar by Legacy. “After graduating, I worked in a few hospitals as a CNA and phlebotomist. That allowed me to see a wide variety of patients and connect with them on a level that comforted them so they could be just a little less anxious during their stay.”

Now with Legacy, Collins says that public health has become more than a passion for her. “The information that is most widely known to the public regarding STIs is not always factual or up to date, so I like having the opportunity to educate the community,” Collins continues. “PrEP is such a great asset that a lot of people still don’t know about. It helps our nation stay in control of this virus and prevent further infection.”

Legacy Community Health honors the Black women within our own ranks who work each day to drive healthy change within the communities we serve across southeast Texas.