National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

March 6, 2024

March 10 marks the annual commemoration of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, a day where we collectively amplify the voices of women and girls impacted by HIV. We honor the voices of women who have fought tirelessly to combat stigma and advocate for HIV education, prevention, treatment and cure as well as those who continue to live and thrive in the shadows of stigma and discrimination.

While numbers of new HIV diagnoses among women have declined in recent years, we understand that the fight is far from over. In the US, as of 2021, women still comprise about 23% of people living with HIV while accounting for 20% of new HIV diagnoses, of which 2% were among transgender women. As we consider these rates, it is critical to highlight the disproportionate impact HIV continues to have on Black, Latina and other racial and ethnic women. In California, women accounted for 15% of new HIV diagnoses (12% cisgender women and 3% transgender women). Black cisgender women have new HIV diagnosis rates 6.9 times higher than White cisgender women while Latina cisgender women have rates 1.3 times higher than White cisgender women.

This year’s theme, “Prevention and Testing at Every Age. Care and Treatment at Every Stage,” reminds us of the sub-optimal HIV care continuum outcomes among women most in need. Californian Black women have the lowest rates of linkage to HIV care, retention in HIV care, and viral suppression compared to all other racial and ethnic groups of women. We are mindful that a new women-centered approach is needed if we are to reach an end to HIV among women. One that prioritizes the social determinants of health including homelessness, poverty and incarceration, and considers the historical legacies of unfair and unethical treatment of racial and ethnic minority people, while addressing the co-occurring conditions; violence, mental health and substance use that affect HIV prevention efforts. We must confront systems of inequality that promote PrEP use for women given only 6% of Californian women report such use, nearly one decade after its approval by the Food and Drug Administration.

In commemoration of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day we honor the many sheroes in the fight against HIV whom we have lost in addition to those we continue to serve alongside. On February 20, 2024, we lost 39 year-old Ms. Hydeia Broadbent, a Dandelion (born with HIV) warrior who spent her entire life – since the young age of 5 – as an advocate in countless forums to raise HIV awareness and prevention. In her short time, she embodied selflessness and dedication to educating the world about HIV. It is through Hydeia’s courage and perseverance that we will continue to feel a sense of hope and determination to end HIV! We say her name, onward together.