DHH urges women to be tested to protect against HIV/AIDS

– In observance of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals are encouraging women to be tested for HIV, the virus which causes AIDS. This year's theme is "Every 35 minutes a woman tests positive for HIV in the United States, it's time to get tested." Anyone can get tested for HIV at no cost at any of Louisiana's parish health units, as well as through participating community-based organizations.

The following is a press release from the Department of Health and Human Services:

Every 35 Minutes a Woman Tests Positive for HIV in the U.S.

Baton Rouge

Currently 5,179 women and adolescent girls are living with HIV in Louisiana, and 278,000 nationwide. In the United States, women represent 26 percent of all cases. In 2009, women represented 32 percent of the new HIV cases in Louisiana.

The problem is much more significant in the black community. Black women make up the largest portion of new HIV cases for Louisiana women. Of the 409 women diagnosed with HIV in Louisiana in 2009, 82 percent were black, 13 percent were Caucasian, and 3 percent were Hispanic. Nationally, black women represent 12 percent of the female population and 64 percent of the women living with HIV/AIDS. For black women between the ages of 25-34, HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death. To increase HIV awareness and the importance of HIV testing amongst black women, DHH coordinates "All about HER," a statewide program that aims to combat the problem.

Often, women are caregivers in families and are more concerned about the health of family and friends before their own health. National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day aims to remind women to take charge of their health and make HIV testing a part of their normal screening process.

Getting tested for HIV is a crucial step because early diagnosis of HIV increases opportunities for treatment and prevention, allowing women and girls to live longer, healthier lives. HIV testing is especially important for pregnant women. HIV-infected pregnant women can reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to their unborn child by 98 percent if proper testing and treatment are obtained.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that if the worldwide trend continues there will be more cases of infected woman than men, in part because women face unique challenges that may place them at risk for acquiring HIV. Those who participate in high-risk behaviors such as unprotected sex and intravenous drug usage need to understand the potential consequences of their behavior and the importance of routine HIV testing.

For more information about HIV/AIDS among women and girls, including locations offering HIV testing, please visit www.womenshealth.gov/NWGHAAD/ or www.hivtest.org. Questions about HIV and other STDs can be directed to the Louisiana Statewide AIDS/STD Info line, please call 1-800-99-AIDS-9 (1-800-992-4379) or visit www.hiv411.org .

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about DHH, visit http://www.dhh.louisiana.gov.

DHH Urges Women to Be Tested to Protect Themselves and Their Partners