As National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day nears, I wanted to share highlights of actions that have unfolded since our last blog post on achieving the goals of the NHAS for women.Impact of HIV on Women in the U.S.Nearly 300,000 women in the United States are living with HIV/AIDS and, according to the CDC, there are an estimated 11,200 new HIV infections among women each year. Approximately 80% of these women are infected through heterosexual contact. At a population level, 1 in every 32 black women; 1 in 106 Hispanic/Latina women; 1 in 182 Native Hawaiian/other Pacific Islander women; 1 in 217 American Indian/Alaska Native women; and 1 in 526 white or Asian women will be diagnosed with HIV infection. These data illustrate the disproportionate burden of HIV borne by African American women and Latinas compared to women of other races/ethnicities.
We know that gender inequality and inequity contribute to women's vulnerability and risk for HIV acquisition. We also know that many of these women face challenges in access to health care as well as experience poverty, violence, trauma, and other conditions that exacerbate their risk for HIV.
Working to Address HIV Among Women in the U.S.Many of our colleagues, inside and outside of government, are studying how these disparities can best be addressed. For example, in their recent article, “Social Determinants of HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases Among Black Women: Implications for Health Equity, colleagues from CDC discuss national efforts to advance consideration of social determinants of health, a campaign designed to increase HIV testing among African American women between the ages 18 to 34.
In November 2011 HHS, led by the Office on Women’s Health, released a special supplement to the journal Women’s Health Issues providing perspectives on gender-specific health concerns of U.S. women and girls in the HIV/AIDS epidemic and recommendations for strategic improvements to meet their needs.
HHS recently convened a cross-agency discussion group to address a more coordinated national response to HIV/AIDS research, prevention, care and treatment for U.S. women and girls. This group will examine how HHS can use the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) to advance the nation’s response to HIV/AIDS among women and girls.
In the Months AheadOn March 14, White House and Administration officials will discuss the intersection of HIV/AIDS, violence against women, and gender-related health disparities. Speakers and panelists will examine the nexus of these important issues and their impact on women's lives both domestically and globally.
Later this month the HHS Office on Women’s Health will host a consultation about strategies to improve the health, well-being, and safety of individuals, families and communities by improving reentry outcomes for women leaving jails and prisons, including the estimated 2% of female inmates held in state or federal prisons living with HIV/AIDS.
Finally, an important provision of the Affordable Care Act takes effect on August 1 when new private health plans must cover the guidelines on women’s preventive services with no cost sharing. This means that women will be able to receive preventive health services, including annual HIV and sexually transmitted infections testing and domestic violence screening and counseling. By eliminating barriers like co-pays, co-insurance, and deductibles, these guidelines will help improve access to affordable, quality health care for all women; increase the number of women aware of their HIV status; and better connect those living with HIV into care.
A Role for EveryoneAs we observe National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, we are reminded that achieving the Strategy’s goals will require more active engagement from all sectors of society. We know that many vital activities are underway around the nation and that individuals, organizations, and communities are contemplating new ways they can contribute to these national efforts.
What action steps are you, your organization, or community taking to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls? Tell us in the Comments section below.
These important conversations and activities will continue and evolve across all sectors as we work together to improve–and enlist more partners in–our efforts to work towards an AIDS-free generation.