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Emmy Award-Winning Actress Jackée Harry Sheds Light On HIV As Issue For Cis & Trans Women of Color

FX’s show “POSE” continued making headways for its amazing costuming, powerful narratives, and the importance of showcasing the HIV storyline with one of its main characters, house mother Blanca. Emmy Award-winning actress Jackée Harry—of shows “227” and “Sister, Sister” fame—took to Twitter to share the importance of understanding HIV back then, and why the heterosexual community needs to recognize that it’s still an issue today.

In a powerful tweet thread, Harry stated:

It is rare during these times to see any celebrity articulate the HIV epidemic in this way while also acknowledging their truth and the potential risk they put themselves in during the height of the epidemic. What Harry did was not only stand in her truth but use her platform to educate a generation of people who have been fans of hers, old and new, on the importance of PrEP and understanding how the HIV epidemic is still in our community.

According to the CDC:

“Pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP) is when people at very high risk for HIV take HIV medicines daily to lower their chances of getting infected. PrEP can stop HIV from taking hold and spreading throughout your body. It is highly effective for preventing HIV if used as prescribed, but it is much less effective when not taken consistently.

Daily PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90%. Among people who inject drugs, it reduces the risk by more than 70%. Your risk of getting HIV from sex can be even lower if you combine PrEP with condoms and other prevention methods.”

As Harry stated, use of PrEP within communities of color has not increased in the way many hoped since its introduction into the market over five years ago. Insurance issues, access to medication, and education have not necessarily reached those communities that are most vulnerable to HIV—in effect causing a delay in the treatment getting to those who need it most. Medical mistrust and stigma have also played a role in the Black and Brown communities’ apprehensions about using the medication, as well.

CDC reporting states that “[a]ccording to current estimates, around a quarter (22-28%) of transgender women are living with HIV, and more than half (an estimated 56%) of Black/African American transgender women are living with HIV. The percentage of transgender people who received a new HIV diagnosis was more than 3 times the national average.”

In terms of Black heterosexual women, the CDC states that “Black/African American women are disproportionately affected by HIV, compared with women of other races/ethnicities. Of the total number of women living with diagnosed HIV at the end of 2015, 59% (137,998) were African American, 19% (43,086) were Hispanic/Latina and 17% (38,992) were white.”

These numbers are jarring in terms of Black cis and & trans women, and Jackée brought to light what many have been afraid to discuss. We need more allies like Jackée Harry to talk about this issue and motivate more communities of color to take a vested interest in their healthcare, especially around HIV.