TDOH Calls on Women, Girls to Take Action to Prevent HIV/AIDS
National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is March 10
NASHVILLE – HIV/AIDS is a serious public health issue affecting nearly 280,000 women and adolescent girls in the United States. In Tennessee, about one in four people newly diagnosed with HIV/AIDS is female, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in five people living with HIV in the United States do not know they are infected. The Tennessee Department of Health is observing National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day March 10 by calling on women and girls to learn about HIV/AIDS prevention and the importance of getting tested.
“Getting tested for HIV is the first step to protecting one’s self and others,” said Carolyn Wester, MD, MPH, medical director of the state’s HIV/AIDS/STD section. “It is vitally important that all women and girls in Tennessee who are sexually active get tested for HIV and learn how to prevent the spread of infection. By knowing their status, women can take steps to protect themselves from HIV, to receive treatment and prevent passing it on to others, including their children.”
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.
Community-based organizations across Tennessee also offer free and confidential HIV testing. Individuals may visit www.HIVtest.org to find a testing site. 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 nearby testing site.
The human immunodeficiency virus, or 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.
Abstinence, or not having sex, is the only absolute way to prevent HIV infection. Individuals can protect themselves by using latex condoms each time they participate in sexual activity. Condoms are available at no cost at any HIV testing site.
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.
National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is a nationwide initiative to encourage women and girls to learn the facts about HIV/AIDS, the importance of HIV testing and how to live with and manage HIV/AIDS. For more information, visit www.womenshealth.gov/NWGHAAD/. Questions about HIV/AIDS can also be answered by calling the toll-free National HIV/AIDS Hotline at 1-800-342-AIDS.