Black Girls Rock…So Why Aren’t They Getting The Healthcare They Need And Deserve?
When I first met Carla in my Brooklyn clinic, she was a lanky, 38-year-old black mother with HIV and diabetes who was seeking help for cocaine addiction. Constantly shifting in her chair, she admitted that marijuana increased her appetite enough to take her HIV meds with food (“or else I get an upset stomach.”). What I remember most about Carla, however, wasn’t her drug use, her gyrating motions nor years of childhood sexual abuse. It was her sweet smile and humility. When I told her she was a survivor, she replied with a sheepish grin, “Um, well, I suppose I am.” When I said I was proud of her and she’d get the help she needed and deserved, her reaction surprised and saddened me: “No one’s ever said that to me. Thank you.”
Turns out that Carla represents a legion of black women, from all socioeconomic classes, who experience a wide range of health issues but do not receive appropriate medical attention. The voices of black women and women of color have too often been overlooked and ignored. As a physician (and a woman of color) who’s cared for numerous black women from the deep south to the northeast U.S., I’d like to give a voice to this otherwise neglected group of women and the health issues vital to them.