Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Capstone Project

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Women's and Gender Studies

Committee Member

Linda K. Pritchard, PhD, Chair


Over 33 million people around the world are infected with Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome or AIDS. Of that number, over a million people are infected with AIDS in the United States. At first, AIDS in the United States was considered a white gay man’s disease. In fact, AIDS was once referred to as “The Gay Plague” (Shilts, 1987, p. 352). However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in 2005 that women now make up 26 percent of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses. African American women are infected at even higher rates than women of other racial and ethnic groups. In 2005, close to 127,000 women were living with HIV/AIDS. Black women made up 64 percent of those women living with HIV/AIDS. In 2004, HIV was the leading cause of death for black women aged 25-34 (HIV/AIDS Among Women, CDC website).

These statistics of AIDS among African American women are alarming. Yet awareness about HIV/AIDS among black women in the United States is minimal. One example from the Vice Presidential debate between candidates Senator John Edwards and Vice President Dick Cheney is especially telling. On October 5, 2004, Gwen Ifill, who served as the moderator for this debate, stated, “But in particular, I want to talk to you about AIDS, and not about AIDS in China or Africa, but AIDS right here in this country, where black women between the ages of 25-44 are 13 times more likely to die of the disease than their counterparts” (Commission on Presidential Debates). Neither one of the candidates was aware of this statistic. When Ifill asked about what the U.S. government should do about the epidemic of HIV/AIDS among black women in the United States, both of the candidates went on to talk about AIDS in Africa.

Clearly, more attention needs to be focused on AIDS here in the United States, where it is an epidemic especially among African American women. This project attempts to do so.