Today is the sixth annual National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, a nationwide initiative coordinated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health (OWH) to make more people aware of the increasing impact that this deadly epidemic is having on women and girls in the United States. This is the time when we ask individuals and organizations across the country to bring attention to this epidemic and to take action to prevent the spread of this disease.
Since the beginning of the epidemic, women have been impacted by HIV and AIDS. Over the last two decades, the proportion of estimated AIDS cases diagnosed among women has more than tripled, from 7 percent in 1985 to 25 percent in 2009. Women of color are especially impacted—HIV diagnosis rates for Black women is nearly 20 times the rate for white women. HIV infection is one of the leading causes of death among Black and Latina women age 25-44 years.
Most important, an estimated one in five people living with HIV infection do not know they are infected. An HIV screening should be as routine as a blood pressure screening. To find HIV testing and other services near you go to AIDS.gov.
Tomorrow, on March 11, people from around the United States will gather at the White House to discuss how to educate women and girls about prevention, about the importance of getting tested, and about how to lead a healthy life despite being infected. They will examine effective strategies not only for prevention, but for showing women and girls how to get the care they need and how they can take action. I hope you’ll come back to www.AIDS.gov for videos from the event and stay tuned to www.Twitter.com/AIDSgov for updates. You can also watch the event live at WhiteHouse.gov/live.
Hundreds of similar events will also take place across the country. To learn more about National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and to see how organizations are joining OWH in taking action, visit WomensHealth.gov . Also, to learn about the White House National HIV/AIDS Strategy and Implementation Plan, visit the ONAP website.
Dr. Regina Benjamin is the Surgeon General of the United States