The California Wellness Foundation has announced commitments totaling $13 million over five years in support of new initiatives designed to address health issues that disproportionately affect women of color.
Through the HIV/AIDS/STIs and Women of Color initiative, the foundation will work to reduce sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV among women of color — who are at higher risk of exposure to HIV and STIs due in part to social and economic conditions such as poverty, income inequality, and unemployment. African-American and Latina women make up the majority of women in the United States living with HIV, and HIV/AIDS-related illness is among the leading causes of death for African-American women between the ages of 25 and 34. Through the initiative, the foundation will mount a public awareness campaign aimed at engaging African-American women in helping to shape new ways of thinking about HIV, AIDS, and STIs — and their disproportionate impact on women of color — and will fund a demonstration project in Los Angeles County led by Gail Wyatt, director of the Center for Culture, Trauma, and Mental Health Disparities at UCLA's Semel Institute, and another in Alameda County, where Women Organized to Respond to Life-Threatening Diseases (WORLD) will partner with the East Bay Community Foundation.
The second initiative, Reentry Women, will focus on enabling formerly incarcerated women of color to achieve better health through programs focused on increasing their participation in the workforce and helping them build financial assets. To that end, grants have been awarded to four organizations working in the area of criminal justice reform — A New Way of Life, Justice Now, Time for Change Foundation, and the Praxis Project. The initiative also will support demonstration projects by Root & Rebound in Fresno County, A New Way of Life in Los Angeles County, and the Time for Change Foundation in San Bernardino County, along with the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO).
"This is the next phase of the foundation's long history of boldly confronting injustices based on race and gender," said Cal Wellness program director Crystal Crawford, who will lead both initiatives. "These initiatives aim to give voice to women of color and to meet their needs as essential leaders in our communities. We hope they fuel innovation and advocacy in serving the needs of women of color and inspire others to contribute to the changes our communities need."