It’s Time We Change The Way We Talk To Young Women About HIV/AIDS

 

African American teen girls on laptop outside

Young women and adolescent girls are at the greatest risk for HIV and AIDS worldwide.

In the U.S., this fact is an important one. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four people living with HIV infection here are women and compared to other racial groups, both African-American and Hispanic women are affected more than other racial groups. This risk is intensified in young women.

READ: Our Girls Matter: Making Progress Against HIV/AIDS Among Women & Girls

More than half of 13- to 24-year-old living with HIV are undiagnosed. Researchers are still studying the biological reasons that younger women’s bodies may be more susceptible to the virus, but societal issues such as not knowing how to prevent it, being afraid to tell partners to use condoms, and the overall stigma surrounding HIV discussion contribute to this statistic.

When Robin was diagnosed with HIV just months shy of her sixteenth birthday, it was the stigma surrounding the disease that led her to making dangerous choices. She thought she was going to die, so she became self-destructive. She tried to speed up the process with drug abuse just so no one would know she had HIV. That stigma, Robin says, can stop with discussion.

“Anybody can have HIV: it can be your doctor, your lawyer, your judge, anybody,” Robin says in her video as a part of the CDC’s Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign. “This disease is real and it doesn’t discriminate at all.”

Here are some tips to talk to the younger women and adolescents in your life about HIV/AIDS to be sure they’re well-informed:

1. Create a safe space.

The fear of stigma and discrimination is the main reason people don’t get tested, or if diagnosed, disclose their status, according to the World Health Organization. Creating a safe space to talk without judgment can help the young women and girls you know feel comfortable discussing HIV with you.