Did you know that nearly one in four people living with HIV in the United States is female? This means that more than 235,000 women and girls have been diagnosed with HIV. HIV and AIDS are still widespread public health issues, and women remain vulnerable to infection, especially African-American and Hispanic women.
Here are some facts that every woman and girl need to know about HIV and AIDS.
The only way to know for sure whether you have HIV is to get tested.
Anyone who has sex is at risk of HIV infection, no matter what her race, ethnicity, age, or sexual orientation.
Adult women are more likely to get HIV during vaginal sex because the vagina has a larger area that can be exposed to HIV-infected semen. Also, semen can stay in the vagina for several days after sex, which means a longer exposure time for women.
Having an untreated sexually transmitted infection (STI) makes a person more vulnerable to get HIV if they're exposed to it.
If you chose to have sex, there are many ways to prevent HIV, such as using condoms; not having multiple sex partners; not engaging in sexual activities while under the influence of alcohol or drugs; which is linked to sexual risk-taking; and getting tested for STIs.
Never share needles, syringes, or other injection equipment. Sharing equipment puts you at high risk of HIV infection.
If you do not have HIV and your partner does, talk to your health care provider about taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). PrEP is a daily pill that can lower your risk of getting HIV. Daily PrEP can reduce the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90%
If you think you may have been exposed to HIV, seek medical treatment right away. For people who have a one-time risk of exposure to HIV, post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) might be an option. PEP is an anti-HIV medicine that you can take within 72 hours of possible exposure to HIV to lower your chances of getting HIV.
If you are pregnant and living with HIV, you can take HIV medicine and work with your healthcare provider to stay healthy. If you take medicine, the risk of passing HIV to your baby is less than one percent.
People with HIV need to take HIV medicine to stay healthy and to reduce their risk of spreading the infection to others. If HIV medicine is taken as prescribed, HIV-positive individuals can get and keep an undetectable viral load (the amount of HIV in the body) and have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to their HIV-negative sexual partners.
Some women with HIV sometimes postpone medical care because of stigma, and their fear of rejection by family, violence from a partner, or feelings of depression.
Progress has been made in the battle to end HIV/AIDS, including among women and girls. However, we need to do more in battling back stigma. Getting on treatment early after infection and staying on treatment without interruption has proven to be an effective strategy in keeping people with HIV healthy and preventing its spread. We are proud to join with the community in recognizing National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day," said Jenifer Leaf Jaeger, MD, MPH, Director of the Infectious Disease Bureau at BPHC.
We can all help fight stigma by learning and talking more about HIV. Go to www.bphc.org/HIV for more information.