March is globally set aside as a month for the recognition and celebration of women and their enormous and invaluable contribution to humanity. It is a sad statement on society that a month even needs to be designated for the recognition of half of the world’s population but sadly women’s issues have long been neglected and undervalued in much of the world. This carries on to this day and it needs to change. March 10th, in particular, is specially designated as Women and Girls AIDS/HIV Awareness Day #NWGHAAD to highlight a marginalized segment of the population who live with or are at great risk of coming into contact with the HIV virus.
Globally women and girls are especially vulnerable to this deadly virus and people of colour even more so. Very often women and young girls fall prey to sexual assault and violence and through no fault of their own become infected. What’s more the HIV virus is often spread congenitally to an unborn foetus. Drug use and general misinformation about the risks associated with unprotected sex are also contributing factors. However education and prevention can have dramatic effects on saving lives and reducing the numbers of the newly infected.
What can be done:
- Abstinence from sex whenever and for as long as possible is the best defence.
- Limit your number of sex partners
- Use protection such as condoms during all forms of sexual activity
- If you are a drug user – never share needles
- Doctors have also new vaccines called pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis which can prevent infection of HIV if used in a timely fashion
For many ‘first world’ young people the above information may seem self-evident but there are still many mistaken beliefs about HIV and sexual transmitted diseases in general. Talking to a medical professional when in doubt and educating young people worldwide is the most effective way to fight the spread of this disease, and it is working. In developing and developed countries alike, the rates of new infections has seen a decrease through awareness campaigns and dissemination of information regarding best practises in prevention and debunking long-held myths and misconceptions about the virus.
The CDC (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has stated, “From 2010 to 2014, new HIV diagnoses declined 20% among all women and even more (24%) among black women.”
Another of the day’s mandates is to raise awareness of the options available to women and girls currently infected and living with HIV/AIDS. At one time the prognosis for HIV carriers was less promising but today all sorts of ground-breaking medicines such as Anti-retroviral therapies (ART) are available and medicines can be taken to reduce the HIV viral load in a patient’s body. Doing this greatly improves the quality of life and longevity prospects for infected people.
If you are a teacher and would like to do some classwork and raise awareness among your students or if you would just like to set up an event in your community check out the HIV.gov website for event information at https://www.hiv.gov/events/awareness-days/women-and-girls
The awareness day’s theme itself is “The Best Defence is a Good Offence”. And it seems to be creating a lot of positive change.