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Program Aims to Help Prevent HIV in African-American Women - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Cville Program Aims to Help Prevent HIV in African-American Women

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Charlottesville's AIDS Services Group (ASG) is taking a new approach to prevent HIV infection in African-American women. ASG developed a program called The SISTA (Sisters Informing Sisters on Topics About Aids) Project, which is designed to empower women to take control of their sexual health.

Given the infection rates for this demographic, ASG wanted to provide a safe space where women could talk to each other openly and honestly - and that kind of support is already making a difference.

Doris Hill is HIV positive and has been living with the virus for over 20 years. She says there was a time when she was shamed into silence, but has learned her story can empower others.

"It's about our young sisters going out and saying, 'No, I need you to use a condom'," said Hill, a SISTA volunteer.

"They say that they never took the possibility of getting HIV seriously and they had a mentor who was in the group today sharing her story that moved some of them to tears," said Kelly Logan of Charlottesville Social Services.

Nationally, African-American women account for 66 percent of new cases of HIV among women, and AIDS/HIV-related illness is the number one killer of black women ages 25 to 34.

The SISTA Project exposes women to other ways to protect themselves - including using the female condom. You won't find female condoms on most drug stores' shelves.  Hill says that's why the program is so important.

"So it's like 10 more girls going out here, here, and here… the word gets out. Sometimes that's the best way we can get things out there anyway, through our own people," said Hill.

Hill says for too long women haven't been open, but says there is too much at stake to be silent.

"You've got to know that it's out there," said Hill.

Tuesday marked the graduation for the participants in the SISTA Project.  ASG is planning to have a new group in May.

For more information on the SISTA Project, click here.

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