March 10 is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 9, 2010) – Every 35 minutes a woman tests positive for HIV in the United States.

Tomorrow marks the observance of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day to bring attention to the serious toll the epidemic has had on women and girls. Increasing numbers of women have become infected with HIV since it was first reported in the early 1980s.

"HIV/AIDS continues to be a major health concern for women and for all New Yorkers," said State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D. "It is critically important that everyone know their HIV status and share in the responsibility to end this epidemic. When someone tests positive, we have excellent systems of care to keep people healthy and provide them with support. When there is a negative test result, we want to do everything possible to keep that person from becoming infected."

Women of color make up approximately 88 percent of the 37,319 women in the state reported living with HIV/AIDS as of December 2007. Most of these women were between the ages of 25 and 49 when diagnosed, and the most significant factor associated with transmission was heterosexual contact.

Anyone receiving an AIDS diagnosis concurrently or within 12 months of their initial positive HIV test result, have what is referred to as "late diagnoses." About 35 percent of newly diagnosed women fit into this category.

"The earlier an HIV infection is diagnosed, the better the prospects are for maintaining an individual in good health and for preventing further transmission," said Humberto Cruz, Director of DOH's AIDS Institute. "There remain too many individuals who are unaware of their status—and too many individuals who learn of their status late in the course of infection."

Women should schedule an HIV test if they have:

  • Had unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex with multiple partners, anonymous partners or men who have sex with men.
  • Injected drugs or steroids or shared equipment (such as needles, syringes, and works).
  • Exchanged sex for drugs or money.
  • Been diagnosed with or treated for hepatitis, tuberculosis, or a sexually transmitted disease like gonorrhea, chlamydia, or syphilis.
  • Had unprotected sex with someone whose status is unknown to you.

To schedule a free rapid HIV test call the toll-free confidential NYS DOH AIDS hotline at 1-800-541-AIDS. Additional information about the DOH anonymous HIV counseling and testing program is available at DOH's Web site http://www.nyhealth.gov.