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HEY, HO, HIV HAS GOT TO GO! Today, March 10th is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day!

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Womens’ Health designated every March 10th as the day to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS in women and girls. Today is the day for organizations around the country to educate women and girls about HIV prevention, the importance of getting tested and how to live with and manage living with HIV/AIDS. Obviously education happens the rest of the year as well, but today is to really say, HEY PAY ATTENTION- THIS IS IMPORTANT. TOGETHER WE CAN STOP THIS!

FACT: HIV/AIDS is the 5th leading cause of death in women in the United States, ages 25-44. It is the leading cause of death for black women between the ages of 25 and 34.

Yesterday, I blogged for Rock the Red Pump as did hundreds of other bloggers around the country to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS in women. The Red Pump Project has a campaign- ROCK THE RED PUMP to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS in women. Please check out their website and my blog for yesterday.

FACT: HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects minority women in the United States.

People believe many things that are untrue. Usually this is just a case of lack of information and education. In the case of HIV and AIDS, this is definitely what’s going on and we have to change that.

I think people believe the following things:

1. HIV/AIDS is gone.

2. It’s in Africa but not in the U.S., Canada, Europe, or really anywhere else.

3. I know they say HIV/AIDS can be contracted by people who aren’t intravenous drug users or gay, but it’s pretty unlikely.

4. I have an IUD so I’m protected from everything like AIDS.

5. Women don’t get HIV and AIDS.

6. If you get HIV/AIDS, you’re dirty, gross, bad people, or just dumb.

News- these are all myths. Help people understand that.

Oftentimes women contract HIV from men who don’t know they have it.

FOUR things to do to prevent HIV/AIDS:

1. USE CONDOMS

2. EDUCATE YOURSELF ABOUT WHAT PUTS YOU AT RISK

3. TALK TO ANYONE YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE SEX WITH ABOUT THEIR SEXUAL HISTORY AND ABOUT YOURS- If that doesn’t sound sexy or romantic, just think of getting HIV. This is about your health and preserving you- this is about your survival!

4. GET TESTED! Everyone should be tested! There is no shame in being tested.

I took my toddler son to the doctor the other day because he had a fever for a couple of days. I thought he was on the up and up, but my mother said to take him to make sure. So I did. Precautionary. At the doctor’s office, they said he looked pretty good and seemed to be getting better and his fever was down, but they wanted to test him for the flu just in case. Sure. So they tested him and turns out he didn’t have it. But now we know and the flu didn’t end up really hurting him or killing him. Precautionary.

If everyone was tested for HIV, they would know whether or not they had it and be able to act on it.

I’m a social worker and have encouraged all kinds of people, men and women to get tested. I’ve had people tell me they would rather not know because if they do have it, they couldn’t live with it.

Ahhh! Let’s be real- Yes- it would suck to find out that you have it, but knowing can help you and there are tons of trained people who will give you support to go on living with it and there are support groups with other people living with HIV. It is estimated that OVER ONE MILLION PEOPLE IN THE US ARE LIVING WITH HIV. You’ll have support.

When I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis several years back, I felt like I would rather die, but you figure out how to make it work for you. How do you survive? How do you thrive? It’s not about letting it beat you, it’s about standing up for yourself because you deserve to be here and have a good life whether you have HIV/AIDS or not.

Take the time for yourself to get tested. So many women find out they have it at later stages because they didn’t get tested. Get tested. If you don’t have it, great- you’ll know. And if you do, there is support for you.

If you have been tested once, that’s awesome, AND you should get tested again. Ask health care providers or anyone in your area who does testing how often for your level of risk.

You should be tested if:

1. You have ever been sexually penetrated by someone else. This includes penetration in any orifice, and includes by sexual abuse, or rape.

2. You have a tattoo or body piercing

3. You have ever been to the dentist.

4. If you have ever received blood or given blood.

5. If you have ever used drugs that you shoot up with a needle.

6. If you have ever been given an injection.

7. If you have ever used sex toys with someone else.

8. If you have ever had sex.

Some of these may seem extreme or that it would be rare to contract HIV in these ways, but, bottom line is get tested. If you think it’s unlikely, you know what, it probably is, but be tested to be sure!

Every 47 minutes a woman or girl is diagnosed with HIV. Every 47 minutes.

Take action in the fight against HIV/AIDS and raise awareness of its impact on women and girls.

FACT: Women are more likely to get infected through heterosexual sex.

There are awareness events going on all over the country that include testing, education, panels, prayer for the spread of HIV to end, and support groups. Check out events in your area at http://womenshealth.gov/nwghaad/events/

FACT: HIV/AIDS IS STILL HERE BUT WE CAN STOP IT.

Spread awareness this weekend and spread the word.

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