In more than two decades, sexual health issues have gained a lot of attention in the international community since the discovery of the HIV and AIDS. Such discovery rang an alarm and called for a more critical regard for sexual health due to the fact that HIV/AIDS is highly perilous to health and there has been no known absolute cure for it yet, except for prevention.
Aside from lack of absolute treatment, another alarming truth about HIV/AIDS is its modes of transmission to other individuals. Although the HIV is not an air-borne virus, Diagnoses of HIV/AIDS have been rocketing over the years in every part of the world such that HIV/AIDS transmission has arrived at a level of a global pandemic (UNAIDS, 2008).
Despite the fact that the virus causing HIV/AIDS is not air-borne, the manners by which it is transmitted could be nearly as rapid and easy as the ways air-borne diseases are communicated. HIV/AIDS could be transmitted through (1) sexual intercourse, whether heterosexual or homosexual, (2) direct transfer of the virus during blood transfusion, organ transplant, and common use of sharp injection needles previously used by an infected persons, and (3) mother to child transmission by means of blending of blood during childbirth and breastfeeding of the baby (Uwe, Ekuri & Asuquo, 2007).
Given the modes of HIV/AIDS transmission, we are faced with the worse reality that HIV/AIDS could be passed on to other non-infected individuals unknowingly and inadvertently. Consequently, there is a tendency that diagnoses would not follow immediately after acquiring the virus. In the United States, about a quarter of a million of people are living with HIV/AIDS without any knowledge that they have already been infected (Copenhaver & Fisher, 2006).
Generally, health-related issues are matters of vital importance to the welfare of a community. Unlike social or economic issues, health-related issues do not exclude any race/ethnicity, gender, or social status. Diseases and illnesses do not choose their casualties. Nevertheless, in some cases, race/ethnicity, gender, or social status serve as key determinants of how prone an individual is to certain ailments. This is true in most cases pertaining to sexual health. Incidences of sexually transmitted diseases, particularly AIDS and HIV infection, are unequally distributed in certain race/ethnicity, gender, and social status (WHO, 2004; CDC, 2007; CDC, 2008; UNAIDS, 2008).
The aforesaid argument is clearly apparent in the American context. Statistically speaking, most HIV/AIDS-inflicted persons come from African American descent (CDC, 2007; CDC, 2008). Within the infected black population, a greater proportion is comprised of females, especially in terms of heterosexually acquired cases of HIV/AIDS (Espinoza et al., 2007). Under these circumstances, it can be surmised that African American women could be at a greater risk of acquiring the disease compared to their white or male counterparts.
For this reason, the need to effectively confront the sexual health crisis, particularly the disproportion in incidents of HIV/AIDS infection, seems to be more imperative. In order to address this need, the health care system must be more responsive to the medical requirements of the HIV/AIDS-inflicted individuals within a certain community. Hence, there should be greater accessibility to treatment and care to the more affected population such as the African American women.
In connection with this, financial support for research studies and prevention programs must focus its attention correspondingly towards the group of individuals who experience the maximum impact of the HIV/AIDS contagion (Fitzpatrick, Sutton, & Greenberg, 2006). For example, there must be added financial support for epidemiological and preventive research which targets African American and Hispanics in the southern portion of United States where the epidemic is widespread. Also, such monetary assistance must also be increased for research concerning African American women who have been victims of the epidemic by heterosexual transmission (Fitzpatrick, Sutton, & Greenberg, 2006).
Along this line, there have been studies conducted which places African American women in the focal point of analysis. Some of these studies which focus on African American women tackle HIV/AIDS prevention through the use of condom (Bird & Harvey, 2000), evaluation of the role of several projects and programs directed at HIV/AIDS prevention and consciousness-raising (Collins, Whiters, & Braithwaite, 2007), and examination of the relationship between culture and black women’s attitude about HIV/AIDS (Bird & Harvey, 2000).
Despite the fact that there have already been a number of researches conducted concerning African American women, the number of resource materials regarding the accessibility of health care among the population in question is still limited. Nevertheless, many studies recognize that the ease of access to medical and health care requirements of persons living with HIV/AIDS is critical in addressing the sexual health crisis and, more particularly, in suppressing the spread of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic (Burke-Miller, 2006; UNAIDS, 2008).
It is in this regard that this paper is deemed significant. Not only that it attempts to focus its analysis to African American women in the context of the global HIV/AIDS pandemic, it also tries to assess the status of medical and heath care treatment and services intended for HIV/AIDS. To narrow down the scope, this study will concentrate on the case of HIV/AIDS-positive African American women in Boston, Massachusetts and the accessibility of health care to such women.
Objectives and Research Questions
The primary objective of the study is to investigate and examine the accessibility of health care to HIV/AIDS-inflicted African American women in Boston, Massachusetts. Specifically, the study aims to identify the different aspects of health services present in the case, determine the factors that facilitate and impede the accessibility of health care, and to analyze the effect of economic and demographic factors to accessibility of health care. In order to achieve these, the following research questions needed to be answered.
1. What are the factors affecting the accessibility of health care services to African American women who are inflicted with HIV/AIDS?
2. What health care services intended for HIV/AIDS patients are available in Massachusetts?
3. What are the barriers that African American women living with HIV/AIDS encounter in getting to services?
4. What are the reasons that encourage African American women living with HIV/AIDS to seek for medical assistance?
5. How do demographic factors (i.e., race and gender) influence the accessibility of health care services?
6. How do economic factors (i.e., income level and cost of services) influence the accessibility of health care services?
7. How do HIV/AIDS prevention programs in Massachusetts aid in increasing the accessibility of health care services to African American women?
Upon answering the research questions, this study susequently intends to provide an in-depth and extensive discussion and analysis of the case of the African American women in Boston, Massachusetts in facing the challenges of the global epidemic