According to the Office on Women’s Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HSS), about one in four people living with HIV are women, and about 217,000 women – 80% of whom are of childbearing age (15 to 44) – are HIV-positive. Every year starting 2006, March 10 has been observed as National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD) in the U.S. and across the world to educate people about the plight of women with HIV and to empower women and girls to learn the importance of HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment.

National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Women living with HIV face specific issues:

  • Many postpone medical treatment because they fear the threat of partner violence
  • Obstacles like family or depression keep them from coming out with the truth
  • They carry the extra burden of potentially transmitting the disease to future children
  • They may not have the same access as men to health care resources

On March 10, 2015, the tenth annual National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD), federal, national, and community organizations will join hands to offer support and hope, reduce stigma, share information, and empower women and girls to learn the importance of HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment.

It is important to impart information about the critical role of HIV testing, care, and treatment for protecting the health of those with HIV and for preventing transmission to others. According to a global AIDS organization report, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation conducted 155,842 HIV tests in the United States in nine states in 2014. It was found that 98.8 percent of those tested were HIV negative. The Foundation’s testing programs also successfully identified nearly 2000 people who were living with HIV, and who benefited from quality medical care and drug treatment options because of their decision to get tested. The report suggests that administering tests for HIV routinely, but in an "opt-out manner", for individuals aged 13-64 in emergency rooms, doctors’ offices, and clinics, can identify more people living with HIV and get them into care. This can help them keep their HIV infection at bay and also reduce additional HIV transmission.

The immunoassay is the most common HIV test. This antibody screening test, conducted in clinical laboratories or as a rapid test at a testing site, may be performed on blood or oral fluid (not saliva).

Several tests can find both antibodies and antigen (part of the virus itself) and detect recent infection earlier than tests that detect only antibodies. One example is the Alere Determine HIV-1/2 Ag/Ab Combo Test. In addition to HIV-1/2 antibodies, this first fourth-generation, rapid point-of-care test detects free HIV-1 p24 antigen, which can appear in only days after infection and before the HIV antibody is detectable. In December 2014, the FDA granted CLIA waiver for this test, thereby expanding screening opportunities and enabling quicker detection and care. Such quality tests can go a long way in promoting the aims of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.