National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD) is coming up on March 10. We observe NWGHAAD each year to highlight the impact of HIV and AIDS on U.S. women and girls. As we prepare for this year's observance, we want to encourage you to start planning along with us, and to promote resources to help educate women who are at risk for/living with HIV.
Why Focus on Women?
Women and girls represent more than half of all people living with HIV across the globe—that's almost 18 million women and girls living with HIV worldwide. In the United States, women account for approximately one in four people living with HIV and one in five new HIV infections.
Those numbers are important because preventing and managing HIV can be very different for women than for men—an issue that has often been overlooked since the epidemic was first recognized in 1981. In addition to the sex-specific physical effects of HIV, women also face a variety of gender-specific structural and societal challenges, including inequalities that can increase their vulnerability to HIV and negatively impact their health.
Stigma plays a huge role in perpetuating these inequalities. For example, women living with HIV (WLHIV) who are mothers or caregivers may not seek the medical and emotional care/support they need for fear of revealing their diagnosis to their families, friends, or colleagues.
Resources for Women
In our search for HIV and AIDS resources for women, we talked to The Well Project, an organization that works to improve health outcomes and quality of life for women and girls, including trans women, who are living with HIV. They noted that reaching women means providing access to meaningful and relevant information, building community support through social media and online connections, and developing and teaching treatment advocacy skills designed specifically for women.
They note that the need to provide women-specific resources is absolutely vital. The Well Project aims to help WLHIV to successfully navigate the HIV care continuum and achieve viral suppression. And the organization also believes in the importance of a holistic approach for improving women's health, well-being, and sense of empowerment. Psychosocial factors and behavioral health issues are important additional influences that must be addressed in order for WLHIV to achieve an optimal quality of life.
"The Well Project's resources have helped me learn more about HIV and empowered me to want to become an advocate and educator. They have also helped me to step out of the shadows of feeling ashamed."—Well Project client
The organization maintains a comprehensive online library of educational fact sheets (100+) on HIV and women, and reviews and updates them annually. The sheets address a wide range of issues and aim to improve health literacy, increase engagement in healthcare, and improve overall health outcomes.
The project also offers community support to address stigma and connect WLHIV to an online community of their peers. That effort includes online blogs, A Girl Like Me and Una Chica Como Yo, where women and girls can share their experiences and promote a better understanding of living with HIV, while decreasing isolation and stigma.
You can also find information on training for HIV advocacy and capacity building.
|"While The Well Project focuses on women every day of the year, National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day shines a national spotlight on the significant challenges facing women living with HIV in the U.S., providing us with the opportunity to increase awareness around their unmet needs for HIV care and treatment, resources, and support. It also gives us a chance to celebrate their strength, resilience, and abundant contributions to their families, communities, and other women living with HIV." – Krista Martel, The Well Project|
We will be offering more resources for the observance in the coming days. Please visit Womenshealth.gov for more information about NWGHAAD, and join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter to share YOUR favorite resources!