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Hazel Dean

Hazel Dean

In the United States, women remain heavily impacted by HIV. At the end of 2010, one in four people living with HIV were women. However, not all women are equally at risk for HIV. Women of color are disproportionately affected by HIV compared with women of other races/ethnicities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that at some point in their lifetime, one in 32 black women will be diagnosed with HIV compared to one in 106 Hispanic /Latina women, and one in 526 white women [PDF 223 KB]. While black women continue to be far more affected by HIV than women of other races/ethnicities, recent data show early signs of an encouraging decrease in new HIV infections. We are cautiously optimistic that this is the beginning of a longer trend, however a range of complex factors continue to put too many women and girls at continued risk for HIV.

Women generally may be unaware of their partner’s risk factors for HIV. Some women may not insist that their partner use a condom for fear of their partner leaving them, choosing another partner, or even physically abusing them. Unprotected vaginal sex presents a much higher risk for HIV infection for women than for men, and unprotected anal sex is riskier for women than unprotected vaginal sex. Abstaining from sex or having sex with only a mutually monogamous partner who does not have HIV, and using condoms correctly and consistently, reduce the risk for HIV transmission.

There’s often a belief that because HIV/AIDS is something that people have been hearing about for years, everyone knows about it. Research tells us this isn’t true. Myths, stigma, and misconceptions continue to fuel the transmission of HIV in communities around the country.

To fight HIV, we as women need to empower our peers. We need to Share Knowledge. Take Action. as the theme for this year’s National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day calls us to do. We need let other women know that no matter what their relationship status is, they are ultimately responsible for educating themselves about HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, getting tested for HIV, adopting behaviors to reduce their risk of contracting HIV, and seeking treatment if infected so they can live longer and be healthier. My fellow women, please remember that no matter your relationship status, your HIV test results expire every time you have risky sex, or sex without a condom.

Together, we can end the impact of HIV on women in this country – one voice, one test, and share at a time.

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