March 10 is National HIV/AIDS Awareness Day for Women and Girls.
Nashville, TN (TN Tribune) – March 10 is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD), sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Women’s Health ( HHS). As we continue our work to end the HIV epidemic in the United States, we recognize the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has presented. For some women, the impact of COVID-19 has made it more difficult to access HIV-related services. On NWGHAAD, join us in ensuring that all women have continued access to HIV testing (including self-testing), prevention, treatment and care. Together, we can prevent new HIV infections and help HIV-positive women stay healthy.
In recent years, we have seen progress toward reducing HIV diagnoses among women in the United States and dependent regions. From 2014 to 2018, HIV diagnoses decreased by 7% among women overall, including a 10% decline among Black/African American women. While these numbers are encouraging, more needs to be done to address gender and racial disparities. In 2018, more than 7,000 women were diagnosed with HIV. Black/African American women accounted for 57% (4,097) of these diagnoses, followed by white women (21%; 1,491) and Hispanic/Latina women (18%; 1,269). Making the most of the comprehensive toolkit of HIV prevention and treatment strategies can raise awareness and help prevent new HIV infections among women.
Many HIV-free women can benefit from proven prevention options such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) and related support services associated with these interventions. HIV-positive women should be offered appropriate treatment and services that help HIV-positive people get into care, stay in care, and adhere to antiretroviral therapy (ART) so that they become virally suppressed to protect their health and that of their sexual partners. Condoms provide additional protection for women, regardless of status, to prevent HIV, sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies. Despite the promise of these tools to help end the HIV epidemic, they only work when the people who need them most can access them. Recent data from the CDC reveals that only 7% of women who could benefit from PrEP were prescribed PrEP. We must continue to help women get the tools they need to protect their health, including addressing structural barriers like systemic racism that perpetuate health disparities.
As part of the HHS Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America initiative, the CDC and other federal agencies are working together to prevent new HIV infections by ensuring that everyone has access to HIV prevention options, such as PrEP. To overcome financial barriers, HHS launched Ready, Set, PrEP, a nationwide program that makes PrEP drugs available free of charge to people who don’t have prescription drug insurance. The program also addresses transportation barriers by giving people the choice of having their PrEP medications sent directly to their home or to their healthcare provider. For women who are not eligible for Ready, Set, PrEP, Gilead’s Advanced Access Program, and other state PrEP assistance programs are available.
To raise awareness of the many HIV prevention options for women, we encourage you to download and use the CDC’s Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign materials. The new materials expand our portfolio and build on existing resources for HIV prevention, testing, treatment and stigma. You can also watch our new webisode, “Hey Friend: Let’s Talk Sexual Health”, which features black women discussing sexual health. On NWGHAAD, continue the conversation by sharing social media content from our digital toolkit using the hashtags #StopHIVTogether and #NWGHAAD.
Thank you for your continued commitment to HIV prevention during this difficult time. By ensuring women have equal access to quality HIV prevention and care services, we can achieve health equity and end the HIV epidemic.