Just days before National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is to be observed, concerns about the impact HIV/AIDS has on women and girls across the U.S. continues to grow.

The National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, which is observed on March 10, is coordinated by the Office on Women’s Health with the goal of encouraging people “to take action in the fight against HIV/AIDS and raise awareness of its impact on women and girls.”

A meeting of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) held last week focused on the impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls, and included testimony from experts in the field on the ever-growing importance of further researching the epidemic’s impact on women.

Panelist Gail Wyatt, a professor at the University of California, addressed (.pdf) “the disparities that exist for women living with trauma and HIV.

For African American women, Wyatt suggested several reasons for those disparities, including: “a lack of mental health services, a societal history that has normalized violence, environmental and social influences, and the media.”

Gina Brown, the Microbicides Research Coordinator at the National Institutes of Health, spoke about ”the importance in doing research specifically on women living with HIV.”

Dazon Dixon Diallo, founder and president of SisterLove, confirmed “the need for more research when it comes to women’s HIV prevention methods, ” while Carmen Zorrilla, Professor at the School of Medicine at the University of Puerto Rico San Juan, “illustrated the need to fill the gaps of prenatal testing.”

During the Advisory Council’s meeting, Dr. Ronald Valdiserri, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, Infectious Diseases, and Director, Office of HIV/AIDS Policy, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, announced that “$14.5 million of the Secretary of Health and Human Services’ $54 million fund of the Minority AIDS Initiative will be used to support the reduction of health disparities in the South.”

A report issued in January by the Southern HIV/AIDS Strategy Initiative took a closer look at nine southern states that have been “particularly hard hit by the epidemic:  Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and (East) Texas.”

The report (.pdf) indicates that HIV has a disproportionate effect in the Southern U.S., where “the proportion of new HIV infections occurring among women is highest.” The report also noted that “African-American women are particularly affected in the South, as the majority of new HIV diagnoses (71%) among women in this region were among African-American women.”

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