Flash back to the early years of the HIV epidemic, a small clinic in any city, USA. A young woman sits quietly in a cramped office waiting for her counselor to give her the results from recent tests. She wonders: why have they called me back. I did have sex, I guess I could have gotten some STD, but they can cure STDs can’t they – so I am not going to worry …. She looked up at the sound of the door opening.
A woman holding a manila folder entered, closed the door behind her, and sat down. She opened the folder, looked at it briefly, then looked at the young girl. “Hi Tanya. Thanks for coming in.” She paused and placed the folder on the desk.
“I’m sorry to tell you this, but your HIV test came back positive.”
Tanya looked at the counselor, not really seeing her, she could feel her heart rate begin to speed up and her breathing became fast and shallow – all she could think was. But I’m a GIRL! Girls don’t get HIV! I can’t be HIV positive! But she was.
We learned quickly that, yes, women and girls can and do get HIV. Today, 1 in 5 persons living with HIV in the United States are women or adolescent girls. In 2014, more than 9,500 women age 13 and older were diagnosed with HIV. More than 6 in 10 of those women were Black. Although these are sobering data, there is good news too: From 2005 to 2014, annual HIV diagnoses in women declined:
- 42% among black women
- 35% among Hispanic/Latina women
- 30% among white women
- 40% among all women