When it comes to HIV, “Prevention and care go hand and hand”, says Tori, as she speaks about the importance of supporting Black Women living with HIV.
Tori Cooper is a Black trans advocate with over 30 years of service under her belt. In 2021, she became the first Black Trans Woman seated on the Presidential Advisory Council. She is the Director of Community Engagement at the Human Rights Campaign and a dedicated member of the Black Women’s Working Group, a group of women who “were all joined with the goal of empowering other Black women.”
As Tori explains it, “We laughed together, we cried together, and we left out of there, feeling good.” Tori further describes the group as a true working group. She says, “This was a working group and we worked.” She goes on to say, “We provided education, we provided information and opportunity.”
Tori tell us, “I am doing everything that I can to make sure that Black women achieve much more equity when it comes to healthcare and all aspects of life.” She stresses that prevention IS care as it prevents other illnesses, pain, and early deaths.
According to Tori, every Black woman she knows has experienced bias so of course, that would be the case for Black women living with HIV.
“Remove the stigma” she demands as she highlights that Black women are harder on themselves than any other group. There is already a “self-bias.”
This is what drives Tori’s work. Changing the language, the perception, and supporting Black women living with HIV.
As Tori explains it, “If we understand that the same way you get a baby is the same way you get HIV, we remove that stigma and that shame around an HIV diagnosis for Black women, then suddenly you are able to remove some of the bias.”
What message does she have for providers?
- Ask your patients questions, listen, then respond and repeat.
- Ask your patients how you can support them.
What message does Tori have for women living with HIV?
- “You deserve to be healthy, happy, and whole.”
- Take charge of your health.
- Take your medicine.
- “Self-care is selfish and that’s a good thing.”
When asked if people can reach out for support and information, Tori emphasizes that not only can they