Press Release from the Tennessee Department of Health, March 9, 2010:
National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is March 10
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today about one in four Americans living with HIV is a woman, and a new woman in the United States is diagnosed with HIV every 35 minutes. These sobering facts are the foundation of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. The Tennessee Department of Health is participating in this annual health observance March 10 by reminding women and girls about preventing HIV and the importance of getting tested.
“It is vitally important that all women and girls in Tennessee who are sexually active get tested for HIV,” said Veronica Gunn, MD, MPH, FAAP, chief medical officer for the Department of Health. “By knowing their status, women can take steps to protect themselves from HIV, to receive treatment, or prevent passing it on to others, including their children.”
All women need to know about the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV. HIV can cause acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS, a disease that weakens the body’s ability to fight infection and certain cancers. Having unprotected sex is the main way HIV is spread; 80 percent of new HIV infections in American women and girls result from sex with an infected male partner. HIV is also spread through injection drug use or from mother to baby during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding.
Women and girls of color, particularly African American women and girls, continue to bear a disproportionate burden of HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS is now the leading cause of death for African American women aged 25 to 34. In Tennessee, there were 1,071 new cases of HIV diagnosed in 2008. Of that number, 285 cases were in women, and 75 percent of the cases in women were among African Americans.
A person may feel perfectly healthy for several years after becoming infected with HIV, and may be at risk for passing the virus on to others. The only way to know for certain if an individual is infected with HIV is to be tested. While there is still no cure for HIV, people with HIV and AIDS are living longer and stronger lives thanks to a number of new treatments.
The Tennessee Department of Health offers confidential HIV testing at all county health department clinics. TDOH clinics also offer counseling with a trained health care provider on ways to reduce the risk of acquiring HIV. Find a list of county health department clinics online at http://health.state.tn.us/localdepartments.htm. Other sties that offer HIV tests can be found online at www.HIVtest.org. Mobile phone users can send a text message with their ZIP code to “KNOWIT” (566948), and within seconds will receive a text message identifying a testing site near them.
National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is a nationwide initiative coordinated by the Office of Women’s Health to raise awareness of the increasing impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls. To learn more, visit http://www.womenshealth.gov/NWGHAAD/.