March 10 is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day,External a day to bring attention to how HIV and AIDS affect the health and well-being of women and girls within our community.
This year’s theme, “HIV Prevention Starts with Me,” reminds us that everyone, regardless of their HIV status, can make an impact in preventing new HIV infections in women and their partners. The theme encourages women to take charge of their health through measures such as using condoms and taking medicine called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) if they are at high risk of getting HIV. With the U.S. government-proposed HIV elimination effortExternal called for in the State of the Union in February 2019, even greater strides can be made to address the epidemic in the areas hardest hit.
Recently, we have seen promising outcomes Cdc-pdf[388 KB] related to HIV and women. For instance, between 2010 and 2016, there was a 21% decrease in HIV diagnoses among all women within the United States. There has been a 25% decline among black/African American women* and a 20% decline among Hispanic/Latina women,** while rates have remained stable among white women.
Despite these declines in new diagnoses, there is still more work to be done. In 2017 Cdc-pdf[388 KB] women made up 19% of diagnoses within the United States. Moreover, black and Hispanic/Latina women continue to be disproportionally at risk for HIV. In 2017, black women made up 59% of HIV cases among women despite black people making up only 13% of the population overall.
PrEP is an important intervention for preventing HIV, and recent CDC dataExternal show that more than 170,000 women are eligible for it. In addition to encouraging healthy behaviors like condom use and testing, we can utilize PrEP for preventing HIV among women.
Join us in taking action to help all women gain the knowledge and tools they need to protect themselves and their partners.
What Can Women Do?
Talk about it. Learn the facts about HIV, and share this information with your family, friends, and community. The CDC campaign Let’s Stop HIV Together, which is a part of Act Against AIDS, has many resources to combat HIV stigma.
Get Tested. Doing It is a national HIV testing and prevention campaign intended to motivate all adults, including women, to get tested for HIV and know their status. Knowing your HIV status gives you the control to keep you and your partner healthy. CDC recommends that every American get tested for HIV at least once and those at high risk get tested at least once a year. If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, get an HIV test as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, many people are not getting the benefits of early treatment since they do not know they have HIV. People with HIV can stay healthy for years if they take HIV medicine as prescribed. HIV medicine also helps prevent transmission to others.
Protect yourself and your partner. If you are sexually active or use injection drugs, tools are available to prevent HIV:
- Use condoms the right way every time you have sex. Learn the right way to use a male condom or a female condom.
- If you are HIV-negative but at high risk for HIV, take daily medicine to prevent HIV, called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
- Talk to your doctor about post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) if you think you have been exposed to HIV in the last 72 hours and are not on PrEP.
- Limit your number of sexual partners.
- Get tested and treated for other sexually transmitted diseases.
- Never share needles or other equipment to inject drugs (works).
- Remember, abstinence (not having sex) and not sharing needles or works are 100% effective ways to prevent HIV.
Today, we have powerful tools to prevent HIV and help people with HIV stay healthy. If you learn that you have HIV, start treatment as soon as possible after you get a diagnosis. The most important thing you can do is take HIV medicine as prescribed by your doctor.
HIV medicine lowers the amount of virus (viral load) in your body, and taking it every day can make your viral load undetectable. If you stay undetectable, you can stay healthy for many years, and you have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV through sex to an HIV-negative partner. Having an undetectable viral load also substantially reduces the risk of mothers transmitting HIV to their babies. To make sure you stay undetectable, take your medicine as prescribed, and see your provider regularly to get a viral load test.
You can learn more about how to protect yourself and your partners and get information tailored to meet your needs from CDC’s HIV Risk Reduction Tool (BETA).
What Can Parents Do?
Positive parenting practices can help adolescent girls make healthy choices.
Stay informed. Become aware of accurate sexual health facts, what your teen is learning, and where she is getting information.
Have conversations. Plan to have a series of frequent discussions Cdc-pdf[1.47 MB]with your teen over time about sexual health. These conversations can happen in a private space like your car or after watching a TV show or movie.
Be open. Conversations about HIV, STDs, and pregnancy can be uncomfortable, but being honest with your teen and encouraging them to ask questions can lead to healthy outcomes.
Bridge gap between your child and providers. Having conversations with your teen opens the door to your teen being able to speak to their health care provider. You can volunteer to give her privacy and step out of the room during conversations that she or you may find uncomfortable.
What Can Schools Do?
Educate students. Girls spend at least 6 hours a day at school. Schools can prevent the prevalence of sexual health risk behaviors and foster positive academic performance by educating students using evidence-based curricula.
Increase access. School districts can provide on-site sexual health services or refer students to youth-friendly health care providers in the community. Many U.S. schools already have school-based health centers (SBHCs) or school nurses. Ensure confidentiality when students seek services.
Provide support. Establish healthy, safe, and supportive school environments that allow girls to engage in healthy behaviors, seek support help, and share their concerns.
What Can CDC Partners Do?
Health departments, community-based organizations, and other partners can address stigma and discrimination, extend the reach of their HIV prevention, testing, and substance use services that focus on women, and link women who have HIV to care. Learn how CDC can help you.
* Referred to as black in this feature.
** Hispanics/Latinas can be of any race.