Raising Black Girls in the Age of HIV/AIDS:

Eleanor Hinton Hoytt is President and CEO of the Black Women’s Health Imperative

In honor of the 30th commemoration of HIV/AIDS, the NAACP has launched a blogging campaigning entitled HIV/AIDS at 30. It will feature blogs and video posts from the NAACP staff, leadership, members, and partners on various topics that affect the black community. Each month we will have a new topic. March is Women and Girls month and two of our Act Against Aids Initiative (AAALI) partners, Black Women’s Health Imperative‘s President and CEO, Eleanor Hilton Hoytt and the National Council of Negro Women’s, Executive Director Dr. Avis Jones- DeWeever have written articles to shed light on a disease that is claiming the lives of so many black women.



Raising Black Girls in the Age of HIV/AIDS:How to Have a Smart Talk with Your Daughter


More than 25 years ago, I was a parent of an adolescent Black girl, and one of the hardest tasks of parenting then, as it is now, was having the smart talk with her. What I knew then was that my job was not only to provide a safe and loving home environment, clothes (mostly school uniforms), and delicious meals that I took such pride in, I also tried to teach my daughter how to believe in and take care of her body, have confidence, and make the right decisions.

I know times have changed since my daughter was a teen, but if you are a parent of an adolescent Black girl who is fast becoming a young woman, having that smart talk is long overdue. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2008 that a quarter of girls aged 14 to 19 were infected with some type of STD, while 88 percent of girls with HIV are Black.

All that means is: Black girls deserve to have and understand accurate information about their bodies, sex, and STDs and HIV. It’s time! As parents, we cannot leave conveying this information to chance!

Our Daughters Need Us

The best person to talk to your daughter about sex and HIV is you. So take the opportunity on National Women and Girls HIV Awareness Day, March 10, 2011, to have “the smart talk.” Our daughters need us to offer guidance and information as they navigate their lives in this era of social media, technology, and pop culture that are inundated with messages of sex.

Growing Bodies, Changing Minds, Family Values

As far as the actual conversation, it may be that this is the time when she leads and you listen. Be alert to certain expressions and feelings and try to avoid harsh judgments. You want to get some basic points across, but it’s important that she feels comfortable and knows that you won’t overreact to what she says. Girls need to understand that changes in her physical appearance are normal and happen to all girls.

Beyond changing bodies, young adulthood brings the constant challenge for teens to make good, healthy decisions. Transition to teenage years may result in loss of trust and communication with parents. Your daughter should have a clear idea of your family values and how that might influence her decisions about her body.

It can be difficult for you to think of your daughter making a decision that is outside of your cultural or religious beliefs. I suggest spending some time thinking about what’s most important for you to share with your daughter and how you will present the facts. Perhaps what is most important for parents to remember is the love and guidance our daughters need from us. Parents’ words and actions still play a pivotal role in fostering positive self-esteem in girls.

Stay Informed, Be Aware

Raising Black girls in this era of HIV/AIDS means that parents must stay informed, know the facts and be aware of their daughters’ pressures, school environment and social friends. What I know now that I didn’t know then is that sexual curiosity doesn’t change much from generation to generation. I’m glad that I had the courage to have that special “smart sex talk” with my daughter. Today, I encourage her to have a smart talk with the adolescent girls in her life.

To find resources that will help you stay informed, I invite you to visit our two Web sites, BlackWomensHealth.ORG and ELEVATEConversation.ORG, to learn more about HIV/AIDS and find tips on how to ELEVATE the conversation about HIV/AIDS with your family and friends.

Eleanor Hinton Hoytt is President and CEO of the Black Women’s Health Imperative, the only organization devoted solely to advancing the health and wellness of America’s 19.5 million Black women and girls through advocacy, education, and leadership development.