What if you had HIV and didn’t know it? According to the Office on Women’s Health, of the 1.1 million HIV-positive people in the United States, one in four is a woman over the age of 13. It is estimated that 27,000 of them don’t know it, so they aren’t being treated and are potentially transmitting the virus to others.
Women and girls who are HIV-positive need treatment, the goal of which is to reduce the level of virus to a low or undetectable level. Unfortunately, less than half of all HIV-positive women and girls are virally suppressed, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), there are 31 FDA-approved antiretroviral drugs to treat HIV. While not a cure, these medications can significantly suppress the virus. Because of improved treatment, people with HIV are living longer, healthier lives.
5 Steps to Reach Viral Suppression (very low or undetectable levels of HIV in the blood)
1. Don’t guess at your HIV status — get tested.
2. If you test positive for HIV, seek treatment without delay.
3. Keep your doctor appointments.
4. Continue with HIV-related care.
5. Take your medications as prescribed.
If you are HIV-positive, stay on your medications and take steps to prevent the spread of the virus to others.
How HIV Spreads
1. When blood, semen, vaginal fluid, anal mucus, or breast milk from an infected person enters your body.
2. When infected body fluids enter an open wound.
3. Sharing of intravenous needles for drugs, needles for tattoos, and tools for piercings with an infected person.
4. HIV can be spread from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding. (Treatment during pregnancy can lower this risk, but won’t eliminate it entirely.)
HIV does not spread through casual contact.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around the world, women make up 50 percent of people living with HIV. In sub-Saharan Africa, 60 percent of HIV-positive people are women, and the proportion of women with HIV has been on the rise for 10 years.
March 10 is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. It is important that women and girls get tested and know their HIV status so they can seek the treatment they need and make informed choices. Please help spread the word.
Infographic courtesy of Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources
Post photo: SharonKennedy, photographer | iStock | Thinkstock