Today we commemorate National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD) in recognition of the women 13 years and older who are living with HIV in the United States. Some of these women don’t know they are infected, and others don’t know that they are at risk of getting infected. Given that diverse populations, such as Latinos, are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS, it is critical to empower these communities to get the facts, get tested, and get involved in the fight against AIDS.
On National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD) let’s:
- Encourage women and girls to get tested and know their status
- Help decrease the number of women who are HIV-positive
- Increase awareness of safe practices to prevent HIV infection
- Help people become aware of the levels of care and treatment
Here are some ways you can participate.
Get the Facts on NWGHAAD
There are several resources that you can access to learn more about National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Click here to visit the NWGHAAD webpage on the Office of Women’s Health website.
Participate in a NWGHAAD Webinar
Join the HHS Office on Women’s Health for a webinar entitled “Ongoing Care and Treatment: Women with HIV/AIDS” on Monday 10, 2014 from 2:00-3:00 pm ET. Click here to register.
If you aren’t able to participate, you can follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #AIDSchat.
Share NWGHAAD Social Media Graphics
Visit the NHCOA Facebook page and Pinterest page share these facts with your friends and loved ones. Click on each graphic to see the rest of the album in Facebook.
Share Educational Stories
The stories below were crafted to reflect situations that many Latinas face when it comes to HIV/AIDS. Share these fictional stories with loved ones to help put a face to a disease that is ageless and genderless. Remember that silence, misinformation, and omission allows HIV/AIDS to prosper and thrive. If we want to protect our loved ones, especially our mamás (mothers), tías (aunts), abuelas (grandmothers), hijas (daughters), and hermanas (sisters), we must raise our voices to share this important message.
I have worked hard all my life alongside my husband. We raised three children, all of which are college-educated and have started families of their own. When my husband passed away three years ago, I was lost. My partner of more than 30 years was gone, and I felt very lonely. I met Marcos at my community center. He had lost his wife several years ago, and we became good friends. Eventually, our friendship developed into a romance. I never thought to use protection because I thought we were too old to catch a sexually transmitted disease. When I went in for my yearly physical, my doctor asked if I wanted to get tested for HIV and STIs. I said I didn’t think I needed it, but he said anyone who is sexually active should get routinely tested. When I tested positive for HIV, I was overwhelmed with guilt, sadness, and anger. If only I had kept to myself and respected my husband’s memory. That is when I knew it was a punishment from God.
Takeaway One: Anyone can contract HIV at any age, including older adults.
Takeaway Two: Preventable diseases are not divine punishment. By taking simple steps, you can protect yourself from HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Takeaway Three: Myths about HIV only allow the disease to continue to spread. We must work hard to demystify HIV/AIDS so that we can win the war against this ruthless disease.
I am the oldest of four children. My parents worked very hard to put food on the table, often taking two or three jobs at a time. I was used to taking care of my siblings, and never resented it until I met Paco when I was in high school. He was sweet, kind, and said all the right things. We started dating behind my parents’ backs, and almost immediately began to see my family as a burden. The more I rebelled against them, the closer I became with Paco. Soon we were having sex and I didn’t know the first thing about being in a committed and intimate relationship. Sex was never discussed at home, much less as a teenager. Paco didn’t like condoms and I didn’t believe in birth control, so we always had unprotected sex. One day, I found out Paco was cheating on me and it hadn’t been the first time. Around the same time, my parents found out about my relationship and forced me to see the family doctor so he could check if I was still a virgin. To my parents’ chagrin, Dr. Perez reported I was sexually active, and that he wanted me to get tested for STDs, including HIV. I felt two inches tall. I hadn’t cried in my mother’s bosom with such emotion since I was a child. My mom probably was crying harder than me. When the test results came back negative, I promised myself and my parents that I would never be irresponsible with my body and emotions again. I also made a commitment to help other young women make better, wiser life decisions.
Takeaway One: Fully understand the consequences of having sex gives you the power to protect yourself.
Takeaway Two: Hispanic families tend to be close-knit. Leverage that closeness to develop the trust to talk about difficult topics, such as HIV/AIDS.
When I was a newlywed more than 2 decades ago, I was so in love with José and life. Everything seemed better, brighter, and bigger with him by my side. I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him and have a big family together. I’m not sure when things started to change, but I began to notice small behavior changes. He wasn’t as sweet, he would come home late with no explanation, and he was very possessive of his phone. Our love live was nearly extinct, and when we were intimate, I didn’t recognize him anymore. It was as if he had turned into another person, someone very different from the man I had married. I suspected he had a mistress, but didn’t have any evidence. Once I saw a lesion near his genitals, and I asked him what it was. His response was a smack across the face. It left a mark. He told me to shut up and mind my own business. “It got caught in the fly,” he yelled before slamming the door shut behind him. Then, I began to refuse him. One time he forced me to make love. Afterward, I was sore and felt broken. I didn’t know who to talk to, but my sister knew something was wrong. She forced me to see a doctor. After she examined me, we discussed my husband’s behavior. She explained that if he was engaging in risky sexual behavior, he could have exposed me to a sexually transmitted disease or infection. I felt so numb inside and out. She asked me three times if I was okay with getting tested before I barely nodded my head. When I learned I was HIV positive, I felt the world crumbling at my feet. Today, it’s the other way around. I use my condition to protect other women from experiencing a similar fate.
Takeaway One: Fear impairs our judgment and often keep us from from making favorable decisions.
Takeaway Two: Honesty and open, clear communication are key within a committed relationship. Lack of transparency and respect lead to hurtful and even dangerous outcomes.
As a proud Latino/Hispanic member of the Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative, NHCOA works to inform and educate Hispanic families about HIV/AIDS and its impact. The Latino community, as other diverse populations, is disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS.