Wednesday, March 9, 2011

National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Tomorrow is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, which is coordinated by the national Office on Women's Health. Women make up a quarter of all new HIV infections in Maine. Every 35 minutes, a woman tests positive for HIV in the US. In 2010, 20% of people accessing HIV medical case management in Maine were women.

Women have unique issues and special challenges that make it harder for them to prevent HIV or take care of themselves if they have HIV:
  • Women's bodies are different. A woman is twice as likely as a man to get HIV infection during vaginal sex (because the lining of the vagina provides a large area of potential exposure to HIV-infected semen). Some diseases or disorders unique to women make HIV more serious.
  • Women can give HIV to their babies. Women who have HIV can give it to their babies during pregnancy, delivery, or breast-feeding.
  • Women may lack control in relationships: they may be scared to refuse sex or insist that their partner use a condom, or can’t talk to their partner about abstinence, faithfulness, or using condoms.
  • Women may not know if their partner is doing things that put him (and therefore her) at risk for HIV.
  • Women may not earn much money, which makes it hard for them to pay doctors or even get a ride to their doctor appointments. In extreme instances, some women even end up trading sex for money or drugs.
  • Women may be caregivers for others and not feel they have the time to take care of themselves or are unable to find someone to take care of their loved ones when they want to access services. Women may not earn much money, which makes it hard for them to pay doctors or even get a ride to their doctor appointments. In extreme instances, some women even end up trading sex for money or drugs.

What can providers do?
  • Emphasize and make HIV testing a routine part of health care. Integrate HIV testing into reproductive health care and other key services.
  • Reach out and educate, especially among young women and women of color. Many women want more information and are most likely to get it from doctors, other women with HIV/AIDS, the Internet, television, and radio.
  • Decrease mother-to-child transmission by testing, educating, and treating.
  • Prevent new infections by working with HIV-infected partners.
  • Improve access to care and support services for women, as well as support women’s roles as caregivers and mothers.
HIV test sites in Maine

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