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National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Two women smilingNational Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is a time each year when organizations and communities across the country come together to help women and girls take action to protect themselves and their partners from HIV – through prevention, testing, and treatment. The observance is sponsored by the Office on Women's Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

HIV Among Women and Girls

HIV remains a significant health issue for women and girls, who comprised 23% of the 1.2 million people living with HIV in the United States in 2011. In 2013, one out of five new diagnoses of HIV infection were among women and girls over age 13, with 74% of these diagnoses attributed to heterosexual contact and most of the rest attributed to injection drug use. While these numbers are still too high, the latest available data show some encouraging trends. The rate of HIV diagnoses among adult and adolescent women decreased from 8.3 per 100,000 in 2009 to 6.9 per 100,000 in 2013, due in part to a 21% reduction in the number of HIV infections among African American women from 2008 through 2010.

African American and Hispanic/Latina women continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV. The rate of HIV infection among African American women remains the highest among all women—19 times that of white women and almost 4 times that of Hispanic/Latina women.

Although most (88%) of women living with HIV in 2011 were aware of their infection, less than half (45%) of all women with HIV were engaged in medical care. Even fewer were prescribed antiretroviral therapy (ART) to treat HIV (41%), and less than a third (32%) had achieved viral suppression. When taken consistently and correctly, ART reduces the amount of virus (the viral load) in the body and can keep people with HIV healthy for many years, greatly reducing their chance of transmitting HIV to sex partners. Testing, diagnosis, and treatment are all essential steps in reducing both new infections and the impact of HIV on the lives of those who have it.

What Puts Women and Girls at Risk?

  • Having sex without using a condom or other protection, especially with a male partner who also has sex with men
  • Engaging in anal sex, the riskiest type of sex for HIV transmission
  • Using drugs or alcohol, which can lead to risky sexual behaviors
  • A history of sexual abuse
  • Having more than one sex partner

HIV Treatment Works poster

The HIV Treatment Works campaign shows how people living with HIV have overcome barriers to get in care and stay on treatment.

Download PDF [526 KB]

What Can You Do?

As a woman, you can reduce your risk of HIV by choosing not to have sex, or to have sex with one partner and agree to be sexually active only with each other. If you are sexually active, you can choose less risky sexual behaviors—vaginal sex and oral sex carry much less risk of HIV infection than anal sex. You can insist that male partners use a condom with each sexual encounter—correctly used, condoms help reduce the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). And you can limit the number of sexual partners, decreasing your chance of having sex with someone who is infected with HIV.

One of the most important things you can do to protect your health is to get tested for HIV, alone or with your partner. You and your partner may wish to share test results before you decide to have sex. To find a testing site near you, call 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636), go to GetTested, or text your ZIP code to KNOW IT (566948). You can also buy a home testing kit online or at a pharmacy. In addition, you should get tested for other STDs such as gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia, and insist that your partner do the same. Having an STD increases the risk of getting HIV.

If you have sex with someone who has or may have HIV, talk to your doctor about medicines to prevent HIV infection, known as pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP. Also, if you are not already taking PrEP, see your doctor immediately if you have had sex with someone who has or may have HIV. Starting medication known as post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP, within three days after a possible exposure reduces your chance of getting HIV.

If you are pregnant or trying to conceive, the One Test. Two Lives. campaign promotes HIV testing for all women early in their pregnancy to help prevent the transmission of HIV from mother to child.

If you are using or injecting drugs, seek addiction treatment to help you stop. Do not share drug injection equipment (or works) and use clean needles when injecting.

Lastly, if you have HIV, get into treatment and stay in treatment.