March 10 marks the eighth annual National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, a day to speak out and increase awareness of the impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls. In the lead-up to this important day, fourteen-time Grammy Award-winning artist and HIV advocate Alicia Keys has teamed up with Greater Than AIDS to launch EMPOWERED, a new public information campaign to reach women in the U.S. about HIV/AIDS. The campaign uses targeted public service ads (PSAs) and community engagement opportunities to change the way women think about HIV/AIDS.
“Let’s do this together, let’s end stigma, let’s open up about HIV and take actions in our everyday lives that can make a huge difference. Whether HIV-positive or negative, we all have a role to play,” says Keys in the campaign’s first video.
While the estimated number of new HIV infections among women and girls has been decreasing in recent years, HIV/AIDS is still a serious public health issue for females. Biologically, females are more susceptible to HIV infection through heterosexual sex than males, and more than 80 percent of HIV-positive women are infected this way.
Young women and minorities are at greater risk of infection than other women. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2010 over a third of new infections in women occurred among those aged 25 to 34. African-American women were 20 times more likely than white women to become infected with HIV, and Latinas were four times more likely. Factors such as higher rates of HIV within the community, limited access to high-quality health care, poverty, stigma, and discrimination contribute to increased risk of infection.
No matter what someone’s risk level, all women should be sure to get tested for HIV. Early detection and treatment of the virus plays an important role in slowing the progression to AIDS and helps many people with HIV lead relatively normal lives. “This is the most important message we can deliver on a day like this—women need to get tested and know their status,” says Miss Universe Olivia Culpo, a spokeswoman for HIV/AIDS awareness and advocates for organizations including God’s Love We Deliver and YouthAIDS PSI, among others. “I think having a conversation with your partner about your status is something everyone should do to build and keep a healthy sexual relationship. I also think women should encourage other women to get tested,” she says. To find an HIV testing site near you click here.
For more information on National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day events in your community, click here.
Statistics: Women and HIV/AIDS