It appears that I may be doing some work for a client to publicize the fourth annual National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in March 2009. It is an effort to recognize the female face of HIV/AIDS in America. Since the epidemic began in the early 1980s, more than 200,000 women and girls in the United States have been diagnosed with AIDS, and over 90,000 have died with the disease.
In some parts of the world, HIV/AIDS predominately strikes women; globally, approximately half of all people living with HIV are female. Although that is not the case in the United States, women represent more than a quarter of all new annual HIV/AIDS diagnoses in this country. In 2005, nearly 10,000 U.S. women and adolescent girls (13 years of age and older) were diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.
HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects women of color in the United States. For example, in 2004 AIDS was the leading cause of death for Black women ages 25 to 34. The following year, African Americans accounted for roughly two-thirds of the nearly 127,000 U.S. women living with HIV/AIDS, even though only 13 percent of U.S. women are African American. For Hispanic women living in the United States, HIV/AIDS is also a significant health issue. In 2005, Hispanic women were diagnosed with AIDS at more than five times the rate of white women in the United States.
Sex with an HIV-infected male partner is the leading mode of HIV transmission to women and adolescent girls. Approximately 80 percent of new female HIV/AIDS cases diagnosed in 2005 in the United States arose through heterosexual sex, and surveys suggest that many of the men involved did not know they were infected with HIV.
It is crucial for women to know both their own HIV status and the HIV status of their sexual partners. Hopefully, testing for HIV takes place during routine medical care for adolescents, adults and pregnant women. The early diagnosis of HIV not only has the potential to help prevent transmission by motivating infected people to modify their behavior, but also creates the opportunity to start treatment promptly, control the virus, make informed choices about childbearing and prolong life.
Tragically, some women find themselves in situations in which they lack the power to protect themselves from sexual transmission of HIV. They may be forced into sex, their male partners may refuse to wear condoms, or their partners may prevent them from using female condoms.
There are many ways women and girls can take action in the fight against HIV/AIDS:
- get tested for HIV
- practice safe methods to prevent HIV
- decide not to engage in high risk behaviors
- talk about HIV prevention with family, friends, and colleagues
- provide support to people living with HIV/AIDS
- get involved with or host an event for National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in your community