This is a nationwide event to promote Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) prevention, testing and treatment and highlight the impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls.
According to www.womenshealth.gov, only about half of women living with HIV are getting care, and only four in 10 of them have the virus under control. Women face unique HIV risks and challenges that can prevent them from getting needed care and treatment. Addressing these issues remains critical to achieving an HIV- and AIDS-free generation.
The 2017 theme of National Women and Girls HIV/Aids Awareness Day is “The Best Defense Is a Good Offense.” Whether actively dating or in a committed relationship, taking these simple, effective steps can help prevent HIV infection for you and your partner:
- Use condoms every time you have sex.
- Get an HIV test, which is free and confidential.
- Be monogamous.
- Do not abuse alcohol or drugs.
- Talk to your doctor about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) (link is external)
or post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) (link is external)
if you think you’re at risk for HIV.
According to the Center for Disease Control, women account for one in four of people living with HIV in the United States. Most of those diagnosed are attributed to heterosexual sex.
In the United States, HIV is primarily transmitted by having sex, sharing syringes or sharing injection devices with someone who is infected with the HIV virus.
Sadly, many myths still persist about how HIV is transmitted. A person CANNOT contract HIV through:
- sharing toilets
- sharing food
- sharing drinks
In the United States, transmission is mainly through having unprotected anal or vaginal sex with someone who has HIV. Only certain body fluids, such as semen, blood, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids and breast milk, from a person who has HIV, can transmit the disease.
The risk of contracting HIV during vaginal sex is higher for women than men if no condom is used. Anal sex is riskier for getting the disease than vaginal sex. Sexually transmitted diseases such a gonorrhea and syphilis greatly increase the likelihood of getting or spreading HIV. Women who have been sexually abused are more likely than women with no history of abuse, to engage in sex without a condom, have multiple partners and exchange sex for drugs.
55+ and HIV
According to the CDC, in 2014, of the 6,721 deaths from HIV, 2,610 were among people aged 55 and older. Many widowed and divorced people are dating again and may be less aware of their risks for HIV than younger people. Thus, many of those aged 55 and older are less likely to protect themselves against HIV.
Women who no longer worry about becoming pregnant are also less likely to practice safe sex. As women age, the thinning and drying of vaginal tissue may raise older women’s risk for HIV infection. While older people generally visit a physician more often than their younger counterparts, they seem to be less inclined to discuss their sexual behavior and doctors are less likely to ask their older patients about their sexual activity.
Aging with HIV also presents other challenges because HIV also increases ones risk for cardiovascular disease, thin bones, and certain cancers. Special attention needs to be made in regards to the interactions of medication used to treat HIV and those used to treat such illnesses as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, cholesterol and hypertension.
HIV is a disease that can be managed. If you think you may have put yourself at risk or think you may have contracted the virus, we encourage you to see one of our providers at DeRosa Medical for testing. We are to help.