By Michelle Allen, Associate, Policy and Legislative Affairs, NASTAD
Today, NASTAD joins in the observation of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD) to recognize the impact of HIV on women and girls across the country. Since 2006, this day has been observed to raise awareness and encourage communities to take action in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The facts are clear, of the 50,000 adults and adolescents newly diagnosed with HIV in 2011, one in five was female. Among women, women of color account for nearly two-thirds of new AIDS diagnoses, and at some point in their lifetimes, 1 in 32 Black women and 1 in 106 Latinas will be diagnosed with HIV. Most of these women, roughly 86%, were infected with HIV by having condomless, heterosexual sex. Educating women, across all communities is an important piece of preventing further spread of the epidemic, and that makes this year’s theme, “Share Knowledge. Take Action,” that much more important.
Understanding the risk factors reminds us that HIV/AIDS is in fact preventable, and collaborative, educated action can have a substantial impact on the lives of women and girls. That’s why the Office of Women’s Health (OWH) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has identified five factors that put women and girls at risk. They are:
- Condomless sex
- Sexual abuse
- Other sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- A lack of proper health care
- Substance abuse (e.g., injection drug use).
As implementation of the Affordable Care Act moves forward, health outcomes for women at risk for and living with HIV, will undoubtedly improve. Additionally, the White House is working to address a number of these issues within the President’s Working Group on the Intersection of HIV/AIDS, Violence against Women and Girls, and Gender-Related Health Disparities. Among other things, the working group’s most recent report promotes screening for both intimate partner violence and HIV by working to inform physicians, nurse practitioners, and other community health providers about the warning signs.
NASTAD supports these efforts and released a fact sheet detailing the impact that the ACA will have on women. Additionally, to enhance health department abilities to reach the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS), NASTAD released Raising the Bars: Accelerating HIV Prevention and Care in the United States and the accompanying Raising the Bars: Policy Recommendations to Enhance Health Departments’ Efforts to End the HIV Epidemic. These documents assert the role of health departments in leading domestic efforts to end the HIV epidemic across all demographics.
For more information on NASTAD’s past efforts geared toward women and girls, please click here.