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National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day by Chris Wade, IPHA – HIV Care Connect Project Coordinator

National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is observed on March 10 to raise awareness about how women can protect themselves and their partners from HIV.

Chris wadeThe observance is sponsored by the Office on Women’s Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

HIV/AIDS disproportionately impacts African-American women in Illinois and the United States. Nationally, HIV infection is the leading cause of death for African-American women between the ages of 25 and 34. In Illinois, the number of HIV cases among African-American women continues to climb. Roughly 68 percent of Illinois women living with HIV are African-American, while African-Americans make up 15 percent of the Illinois population. Caucasian women account for 16 percent of Illinois women living with HIV, while the Caucasian population represents more than 73 percent of Illinois residents. Latina women represent roughly 11 percent of the HIV/AIDS cases in women in Illinois, while 13 percent of the Illinois population is Latino. Roughly 4% of women with HIV in Illinois are from Native American, Asian, Pacific Islander and other communities.

Women in their 30s are the most likely to be living with HIV/AIDS in Illinois, and almost all Illinois women living with HIV are between the ages of 20 and 50.

There is an urgent need for HIV education, prevention, and care efforts that are culturally responsive, available, acceptable, accessible, woman-centered and effective. We, as a community must work with community based organizations to develop a commitment and investment in the HIV/AIDS efforts for minority women.

We must be our Sisters’ Keeper in the fight to end HIV/AIDS for minority women on National Women and Girls HIV Awareness Day!

How can we be our Sisters’ Keeper?

  • Get tested for HIV, alone or with your partner. To find a testing site near you in Illinois, call the State of Illinois AIDS/HIV & STD Hotline 1.800.AID.AIDS (243.2437) | TTY 1.800.782.0423 or visit http://hivcareconnect.com to find testing services, housing providers, health centers and other service providers in Illinois; or Find the nearest testing center in Illinois by using the Text2Survive by texting IL plus your ZIP code to 36363. You can also buy a home testing kit online or at a pharmacy.
  • If you have HIV, start treatment as soon as possible with HIV medicines (also known as antiretroviral therapy or ART), and stay on treatment. ART can lower the level of virus in your body enough to improve your health, prolong your life, and prevent you from spreading HIV to others. For enrollment in Illinois Medication Assistance Program, visit: www.hivcareconnect.com
  • Get tested and treated for other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia, and insist that your partners do too. Being infected with other STDs makes you more likely to get HIV.
  • Choose not to have sex, or choose to have sex with one partner, and agree to be sexually active only with each other. Both of you should get tested for HIV and share your test results before you decide to have sex.
  • Choose less-risky sexual behaviors. Anal sex, especially if you are the receptive partner, is the highest-risk sexual activity for getting HIV. Vaginal sex is much less risky, and oral sex carries much less risk than anal or vaginal sex.
  • Use latex male condoms or female condoms correctly every time you have anal or vaginal sex. Condoms are the only effective form of birth control that also helps reduce the risk of transmitting HIV and most other STDs.
  • Talk to your doctor about HIV medicines to prevent HIV infection (known as PrEP) if you routinely have sex with someone who has or may have HIV. www.prep4Illinois.com
  • See a doctor immediately if you have sex with someone who has or may have HIV, if you are not already taking PrEP. Starting medicine (known as PEP) within three days after a possible exposure reduces the chance of getting HIV.
  • Limit the number of people you have sex with. The fewer partners you have, the less likely you are to have sex with someone who is infected with HIV.
  • Don’t share injection drug equipment, such as needles, syringes, works, or anything that might bring you into contact with someone else’s blood or bodily fluids.HIVCareLinklogo

Sources:

CDC http://www.cdc.gov/features/womengirlshivaids/

Black Women’s Health Initiative: http://www.bwhi.org/elevate/what-black-women-should-know-about-hiv-aids/

NAACP: http://action.naacp.org/page/-/Health%20Documents/HIV_among_Women_Fact_Sheet.pdf

IL Dept of Public Health – Office of Women’s Health: http://www.idph.state.il.us/about/womenshealth/factsheets/aid.ht

HIV Care Connect is a program of the Illinois Public Health Association and is funded by the Illinois Department of Public Health

CWade@ipha.com