Today is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, a day coordinated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health to encourage people to take action and raise awareness about the impact the epidemic is having on women and girls.
More than 290,000 women in the U.S. are living with HIV; in fact women now account for more than one in four new cases of HIV and AIDS in this country.
HIV/AIDS is a major health issue for African American women. A new study released last week shows the HIV rate among black women living in some U.S. cities is the same rate as that of some African countries.
As ABC News reported:
“This disease is alive and well in this country,” said Dr. Carlos Del Rio, principal investigator for the Atlanta area of the study and professor of medicine and infectious disease at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. “But this epidemic is the face of the forgotten people.”
There are “hot spots” where the disease thrives in this country, Del Rio said, and most of those areas are some of the most impoverished parts of the United States.
“That’s bad, but it’s good because we know where to pour our intervention efforts,” Del Rio said.
The research included 2,099 women ages 18 to 44 who had never had a positive HIV test. Eighty-eight percent of the study participants were black, 12 percent Latina. At the time of enrollment, researchers found that 32 women were infected with HIV but were unaware of their status.
Within one year of joining the study, 0.24 percent of the women tested positive for the disease. That rate is five times higher than the CDC’s previous estimate of HIV rates in black American women.
The numbers are comparable to the HIV rates found in the general population in many sub-Saharan African countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo (0.28 percent) and Kenya (0.53 percent).
So what can be done? Awareness, empowerment, and testing are key. Organizations like the Red Pump Project — have taken a leading role in reaching out to African American women.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) launched a new campaign Thursday timed in conjunction with National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day called Take Charge. Take the Test.
“At current rates, nearly 1 in 30 African-American women will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetimes,” Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, said in a CDC news release.
“To help reduce this toll we are working to remind black women that they have the power to learn their HIV status, protect themselves from this disease, and take charge of their health,” he added.
National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is hosting events across the country. Click here to find an event in your area.
Photo credit: jacilluch via flickr