Did you know that 1 in 32 black women will be infected with HIV in their lifetimes, if current trends continue?
March 10 is National Women & Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. The objective? To raise awareness about how women can better protect themselves. The theme for 2014 is “Share Knowledge. Take Action.”
Did you know…?
- In 2010, women and adolescent girls (aged 13 years and older) made up about one in four of the 1.1 million people living with HIV in the United States. Most of these infections (75%) were from sex with men, and the rest were from injection drug use.
- Black women are more affected by HIV at all stages of the disease than white women.
- Many women who have been diagnosed with HIV are not getting the care they need. Only half of women who were diagnosed with HIV in 2009 were staying in care in 2010, according to a study of 19 areas in the United States, and less than half (4 in 10) had viral suppression (meaning the level of HIV virus in a person’s blood is low enough to help them stay healthy). Viral suppression also leads to a greatly reduced chance of spreading the virus to others.
Why are women at risk?
According to CDC, there are many different reasons that women are still at such great risk of HIV infection, most of them involving unprotected sex. Vaginal sex without a condom carries a much higher HIV risk for women than for men, and anal sex without a condom is riskier for women than vaginal sex without a condom. More than one in five young women in one survey reported anal sex in the past year.
- Women may be afraid that their partner will leave them or even physically abuse them if they try to talk about condom use.
- Some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) greatly increase a woman’s chance of getting or spreading HIV.
- Exchanging sex for drugs, having multiple partners, or having sex with a partner who is physically abusive when asked to use a condom all increase risk of HIV.
- Sharing needles or other drug-use equipment contaminated with HIV.
How can women better protect themselves?
Get tested for HIV. To find a testing site near you, call 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636), visit hivtest.cdc.gov, or text your ZIP code to KNOW IT (566948). You can also use a home testing kit.
Either abstain or agree to be in a monogamous relationship. If you have sex, regardless of your relationship, it’s still important that you and your partner get tested for HIV every year, and share your test results with one another before you make the decision to have sex. If you aren’t in a monogamous relationship, try to limit your sex partners. The fewer partners, the lower your infection risks.
Use condoms correctly every time you have sex.
Have safer sex. Anal and vaginal sex are the highest-risk sexual activities for HIV transmission. Oral sex carries much less risk.
Get tested and treated for STIs immediately. Having an STI increases the risk of getting or spreading HIV. Also, make sure that any partners you have are tested and treated as well before continuing to have sex with them.
If you regularly have sex without condoms…Talk to your doctor about HIV medicine to prevent HIV infection (known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP) if you routinely have sex without a condom with someone who may be HIV-positive.
If you have sex without a condom with someone who is or may be HIV-positive…See a doctor immediately within three days. Starting medicine immediately (known as post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP) and taking it for about a month reduces the chance of getting HIV.
Do not share needles. Drug equipment that involves injections should never be shared.
Start and stay on your treatment. If you are HIV-positive, start treatment as soon as possible with antiretroviral therapy (ART), and stay on treatment. Why? Treatment controls the virus in your body to improve your health and prevent you from spreading HIV to others.