HIV in the Ghetto: Review

HIV in the Ghetto
An Analysis of the Lived Experiences of African-American Women With HIV in Chicago’s Inner City
by Dr. Kenneth M. Nole

Reviewed by John Leonard Francis

HIV in the Ghetto is a unique dissertation that shines the spotlight on a specific population, of a specific urban population and its neighborhood (referred to by the author as “the ghetto”), that often gets less attention in the fight against HIV/AIDS—that is women, black socioeconomically-challenged black women. The author is careful to acknowledge the history of HIV among MSM, but has made it his life’s work to serve women of color dealing with the virus who are uniquely challenged through things like lack of support, alienation from their religious communities, and poverty. Nole assembles his dissertation through thorough research, interviews with these women, as well as community leaders and advocates. He approaches the problem through many angles, not the least of which is a scripture-based approach. His educational background with a Master’s in divinity studies and his work as an associate pastor with his church drive this angle.

His main approach to making a difference in this underserved population is a “shalom community.” This approach is one in which individuals can share their stories and support one another as well as are provided with a holistic approach to their health and treatment. He states that this will improve outcomes for the individual and decrease transmission rates in the community as a whole. He highlights the varied and unique methods of transmission for these women. They are not only at risk through extramarital sex but often through their husbands who aquire HIV in prison and through sex with other partners. However, this seems to leave out entirely the idea that a woman can be responsible for her own health through safe sex practices. There’s also a high risk of transmission through intravenous drug use, both their partner’s and their own.

The most fascinating part of this important document is the stories of the women themselves. They are frank and unapologetic, giving an important and memorable account of their struggles. This is an academic work, but it is also an informative and much needed look at a population still struggling with rising HIV rates that definitely offers solutions, not just stories that need the documentation we should accord to all those living with this disease. This book, while well-researched, does look at HIV/AIDS through the lens of religion and biblical context intended for a specific audience of women and care providers, but these stories, of the women themselves, have universal value.

John Francis Leonard is an advocate and writer, as well as a voracious reader of literature, which helps to feed his love of the English language. He has been living with HIV for fifteen years. His fiction has been published in the ImageOutWrite literary journal and he is a literary critic for Lambda Literary. Follow him on Twitter @JohnFrancisleo2.