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National Women & Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day highlights girls' risk

Posted Mar 09 2012 1:25pm

HIV is not just a serious public health issue for the male population - it can affect women too - and the numbers are growing. Women are 51% of the total U.S. population, and account for 23% of new HIV infections, according to the CDC in 2009.

National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day -- tomorrow, March 10 -- hopes to curtail that growing trend. Coordinated by the Office on Women's Health , it's goal is to encourage people to take action.

"Women need to know they are at risk just like men if they don't practice safe habits," says Craig Wilson , M.D., professor in the UAB School of Public Health and principal investigator of the Adolescent Medicine Trials Network for HIV/AIDS Interventions (ATN) .

"It's 2012 and women are becoming infected with HIV; this is the reality of the STD world now," Wilson says. "This is especially true for younger females, whose male partners may be exploring their sexuality with same-sex relations."

The ATN has community-based coalitions across the nation that focus on awareness, education, HIV testing and linking those who are HIV positive into care.

Wilson says one of the most actionable ways women can prevent themselves from becoming infected is to stay safe.

"We can't emphasize it enough: practice safe sex. Negotiate condom use every time."
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