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National Women
and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day set for March 10

National Women
and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day set for March 10

Women, particularly minorities, are disproportionately affected by HIV.

March 10 marks the first National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, a nationwide event that aims to raise awareness of the increasing impact of HIV on women and girls in the United States and throughout the world. The day is sponsored by the federal Office on Women's Health.

"National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day provides an opportunity to encourage women and girls to take personal responsibility for their own health and well-being, and reaffirms the commitment of the general public and the medical and public-health communities to focus more attention on education, prevention, and treatment efforts among women and girls," says Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in a press statement. "We renew our commitment to research aimed at measures that will empower women to protect themselves against this deadly disease."

HIV is a rapidly growing health problem for women. AIDS remains a leading cause of death for American women ages 25-44 and is the number 3 cause of death for African-American women in that age group, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2004, 27% of all AIDS cases in the United States occurred in women, compared with only 7% in 1985, according to CDC data. Women of color, especially African-American women, represent the vast majority of new cases among U.S. women--among women newly diagnosed with HIV or AIDS between 2001 and 2004, an estimated 83% were African-American or Latina.

Globally the number of women and girls infected by HIV also continues to rise. In 2005, approximately 17.5 million women (46% of all HIV-positive adults) were living with HIV, according to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS. That figure is a 1 million-person increase since 2003.

Frequently, women infected with HIV have difficulty accessing health care, and they may carry the additional burden of caring for children and other family members who also are HIV-infected, particularly in developing countries, says Fauci. They often lack social support and face other challenges that may interfere with their ability to adhere to treatment regimens. Research also shows that HIV-infected women are typically diagnosed and enter health care services at later stages of infection than men, making them less likely to respond well to antiretroviral therapy.

"We need new ways of thinking," says Fauci in a press statement. "Women must be empowered so that they can exert control over their own lives, particularly in their sexual relations. Toward that end, increased educational and employment opportunities for girls and women are essential, including gender-based AIDS education and societal campaigns that delineate the harmful effects of inequality in gender relations." (

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