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National Women, Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in Alabama: prevention, testing, care, treatment

The Office on Women’s Health (OWH) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is leading National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on Sunday, March 10, as part of a national effort to end to HIV epidemic by 2030.

Every year on March 10, local, state, federal, and national organizations come together to shed light on the impact of HIV and AIDS on women and girls and show support for those at risk of and living with HIV.

“Women are often forgotten in the HIV and AIDS epidemic. They continue to make up about one in five, or about 18% of our new diagnoses of HIV in the U.S.,” said Audrey Lloyd, physician of infectious diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Children’s of Alabama. “They are less likely to be offered PrEP, which is our way of preventing HIV. They oftentimes have higher rates of trouble taking the HIV medicine and trouble staying in care than their male counterpart parts.”

According to a 2023 report from the Alabama Department of Public Health, 24% of the total HIV cases in the state belong to women.

The theme for NWGHAAD 2024 is “Prevention and Testing at Every Age. Care and Treatment at Every Stage”. Three goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy that are highlighted by the OWH are

· Prevention of new HIV infections.

· Improving HIV-related health outcomes of people living with HIV.

· Reducing HIV-related disparities

The OWH is focusing on delivering these goals to the target population: Black women, transgender women and youth aged 13-24.

Healthcare disparities among black women can make it harder for them to access HIV treatment. The same report from the ADPH found that more than half of the HIV cases in the state belong to black individuals, putting Black women at risk for HIV.

Factors such as gender discrimination and intimate partner violence can also make it difficult for women to seek out or continue treatment for HIV.

Lloyd said she sees that not enough women and girls are aware of their risk for HIV in her practice. She said she believes that HIV treatment and testing are disproportionately catered towards men.

“I think many women and girls don't perceive that they have a risk for HIV, even when they may have some,” she said. “There's been a lot of effort and marketing placed on reaching men, specifically men to have sex with men, but we've seen that women are often left behind. HIV is also still often perceived as a mainly male disease.”

To combat this, Lloyd said she believes there should be more discussion about HIV for women and especially, adolescent girls.

“Continuing to talk with our girls and with our young women about HIV is very important,” she explained. “We need to have open conversations so that people can ask questions and share their concerns, and get answers and understand risk for HIV and also understand how to prevent it.”

She also emphasized that not only women, but everyone can live a long and healthy life with a HIV diagnosis. Medications such as PrEP reduces risk of getting HIV from sex more than 90%.

”I think that that's one of the things that people don't know about HIV now is that actually our HIV medications are so effective and so good at targeting the virus that I can get the person's liking a person, what we call a viral load, the amount of virus that we can detect in the blood down to undetectable,” Lloyd explained.

More resources to learn about HIV and women can be found here. To see a list of resources for HIV in Alabama, visit the ADPH website or click here.

Additionally, more information on NWGHAAD, facts about HIV, and ways that you can get your community involved in the cause can be found on

Hannah Holcombe is a student intern at the Alabama Public Radio newsroom. She is a Sophomore at the University of Alabama and is studying news media. She has a love for plants, dogs and writing. She hopes to pursue a career as a reporter.
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