National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness DayMarch 10, 2009
Without fail, this anniversary sneaks up on me like a winter storm in March. Twenty years ago my brother died of AIDS-related cancer. He is one of more than 25 million people worldwide that AIDS has killed since it was officially recognized in 1981.
Much has changed in the treatment of HIV/AIDS since then. Patients are living longer and are able to better manage the chronic disease. And more preventative and therapeutic drugs and vaccines are now on the market. But while much has changed, not all has been for the better.
Some still consider HIV/AIDS to be a men’s disease or a gay disease. The truth, of course, is that HIV/AIDS is a human disease affecting more than 38.6 million people worldwide today and, alarmingly, the number of cases in women globally and nationally is on the rise. March 10 marks National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, a day to educate about HIV prevention and to raise awareness about the increasing impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls.
According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control on The Foundation for AIDS Research website, women now account for more than a quarter of all new cases and deaths caused by AIDS. African American women and Latinas disproportionately reflect the largest number of cases among women in the United States, 67 percent and 16 percent respectively, although these groups represent less than 24 percent of the overall population of women in the United States. In fact, AIDS is the leading cause of death for black women aged 25–34. Sadly, women are less likely to receive the necessary medications for the most effective treatment of HIV.
So what can you do? The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers some simple ways to take action:
- Get tested for HIV
- Get the facts and discuss HIV prevention
HIV-positive women leaders around the United States share with RH Reality Check why this day of education and awareness matters.
- Support people living with HIV/AIDS
The New Agenda Blog offers a three–part series with innovative ideas for confronting and stopping new cases among women.
- Get involved with an event for National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
Join 95 bloggers using fashion to raise awareness, rocking their red pumps (literally and figuratively) on blogs, in tweets, and on their feet in support of The Red Pump Project.
Another key way to take action is to support comprehensive sex education programs that provide clear and unbiased information about HIV/AIDS and explain how women can protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases. AAUW’s advocacy for a woman’s right to safe, accessible, and comprehensive reproductive health care and information is an integral part of AAUW’S effort to gain equity for women in all aspects of their lives.
For years, people seemed shocked when I told them how my brother had died. In those days it was almost assumed that I would be embarrassed. My only embarrassment was that his fear of rejection kept him from seeking help and getting support until it was almost too late. National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is an opportunity to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS prevention and to directly and actively impact the lives of women and girls facing the disease.