America is marking its first National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day today. Commenting on the occasion, Anthony S. Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) said in a press release, "This day of recognition serves to raise awareness of the increasing impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls in the United States and throughout the world."
Cristina Beato, MD, U.S. principal assistant secretary for health also issued a statement saying, "Today we have an opportunity to encourage women and girls to learn more about HIV/AIDS and how to protect themselves and their loved ones. Each of us needs to get tested, to learn our HIV status, and to protect our health. If you are HIV-positive, seek medical care and support now. If you are HIV-negative, stay that way through healthy behaviors." The occasion assumes importance since it is estimated that the HIV infection is rising steadily in women and young girls. In 2005 AIDS affected 17.5 million women and the rates are only increasing. "Worldwide, the vast majority of women and girls with HIV/AIDS became infected via heterosexual intercourse, frequently in settings where saying no to sex or insisting on condom use is not an option because of cultural factors, lack of financial independence, and even the threat of violence," Fauci said.