Black Women and HIV: Empowerment through Engagement, Education and Enrichment


Black Women and HIV: Empowerment through Engagement, Education and Enrichment 

In January 2024, faculty and staff from Howard University partnered with Health HIV, a premier national HIV nonprofit, to secure a P.A.C.E grant from Gilead Sciences. Titled “Black Women and HIV: Empowerment through Engagement, Education and Enrichment,” the initiative is known as the Empower Grant. While many activities and events are planned over the next three years, including the development of a Black Women’s Workgroup, enhanced blog and podcasts well as an art contest and virtual gallery, the overall approach is to integrate art, women-focused community engagement, unique educational opportunities, and a comprehensive survey to combat barriers to care in Black women and girls especially as they relate to HIV prevention and care. In addition, the project will seek to increase knowledge and decrease stigma surrounding HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the community. 

Howard University has partnered with HealthHIV, a national nonprofit working with healthcare organizations, communities and providers to advance effective HIV, Hepatitis C, STI and LGBTQ health care. HealthHIV specializes in harm reduction and health equity through education and training, technical assistance and capacity building, advocacy, communications, and health services research and evaluation. It will primarily handle the educational components of the Empower Grant.  

In addition, the Empower Grant is anchored by  the Pediatrics Research Unit of the Howard University’s College of Medicine. In 2009, they, in collaboration with community and faith-based organizations, other universities, nonprofits, and corporations, created the Howard University Stigma Project. This initiative seeks to bring awareness to the negative role that stigma plays in health outcomes and to conduct research, provide education, spark community engagement and embrace the arts to create a path to empowerment. With their connections, drive, mission and efforts, they were well suited to implement additional programming and activities focused on HIV prevention and awareness under the Empower Grant. 



We envision supporting the journey of historically marginalized Black women on the road to empowerment through arts, education, and community engagement to reduce and eliminate health inequities. 



The three main objectives of the Empower Grant are to:  

  1. Incorporate the perspective and voice of Black women and girls to create new sustainable outlets for community engagement. 
  2. Provide education and training to increase knowledge related to sexual health, HIV prevention, access to care and overall health equity among cisgender and transgender Black women and girls in order to engage in PrEP and overall prevention services. 
  3. Identify the impact that arts programs have on enriching sexual health, HIV prevention and care, and self-determination among Black women and girls. 



As a part of the Empower Grant, a new workgroup was created. This workgroup is focused on Black women, however membership is open to all those who are allies and advocates as well. The group objectives will be defined by the membership. Examples of activities of other groups include: monthly or quarterly meetings, presentations, advocacy projects, sharing of personal or professional goals and projects, support groups and more. This (like all of our workgroups) is intended to be a flexible and welcoming group with no strict requirements for membership.

Click here to join the workgroup, or for more information about other workgroups, click here.


Key Grant Participants

Howard University

Key personnel on the grant are listed below: 

  • Joanne Adelberg, MS, Empower Participant Liaison and Coordinator, Family Advocate and Genetic Counselor, Pediatrics and Child Health 
  • Patricia Houston, MS, Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, Project Director of the HIV/Hematology Unit  
  • Saher Iqbal, MPH, Empower Administrative Coordinator, Grants Administrator, Pediatrics and Child Health 
  • Dr. Sohail Rana, Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, Director of Pediatric Hematology 
  • Dr. Tia C. Tyree, Department of Communications Studies, Director of the Graduate and Teaching Associates Program



Key personnel on the grant are listed below: 

  • Melissa Kelley, Program Director 
  • Leo Sheridan, Manager 
  • Taylor Owens, Coordinator 
  • Sindia De La Cruz, Coordinator 
  • Brian Hujdich, Senior Strategist 
  • Maranda C. Ward, Ed.D., MPH, Director, Empower Theater Arts Program, Assistant Professor & Director of Equity, Clinical Research & Leadership, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences 
  • Khadijah I. Abdullah, Director, Empower Fashion Show, Founder & Executive Director, Reaching All HIV+ Muslims In America (RAHMA)  
  • Patricia Nalls, Empower Advisory Board and Mentorship Program Consultant, Founder and Executive Director, The Women’s Collective



The Dig – Howard University  

Diverse: Issues in Higher Education 

Howard University News Service  

The Washington Informer 

Washington Blade 



If you have any questions or would like to support the grant efforts, please contact Patricia Houston, M.S. , Project Director/Study Coordinator at