Although some women and girls may have acknowledged or celebrated National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on March 10, all women should continue their awareness throughout the year, Janette Wheat, Ph.D, said.

Wheat is an associate professor and Cooperative Extension Program human development specialist at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

The theme, “HIV Prevention Starts with Me,” encourages women to take charge of their health through such measures as using condoms and taking the HIV medicine called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) if they are at high risk of getting HIV.

“Recently, promising outcomes related to HIV and women have occurred, according to the latest 2019 figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” a news release said. “Between 2010 and 2016, HIV diagnoses among all women within the United States declined by 21 percent, and there was a 25 percent decline along black/African American women and a 20 percent decline among Hispanic/Latina women while rates remained stable among white women.”

More work needs to be done, Wheat said.

“According to the CDC, in 2017, women made up 17 percent of HIV diagnoses within the U.S., but black and Hispanic/Latina women continued disproportionally at risk for HIV. In 2017, black women made up 59 percent of HIV cases despite being only 13 percent of the population overall,” the news release said.

Wheat said women should talk about HIV, learn the facts and share them with others. The CDC campaign “Lets’s Stop HIV Together” has many resources to combat HIV stigma. Women should get tested at least once and those at high risk should get tested at least once a year. If pregnant or planning to become pregnant, get tested immediately.

Also, Wheat said the CDC recommends limiting the number of sexual partners, getting tested and treated for other sexually transmitted diseases, and refraining from sharing needles and other equipment to inject drugs.

To find a testing site, visit Get Tested online, text your ZIP code to KNOWIT or call 1-800 CDC-INFO. Home testing kits may be available online or in drugstores.

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff offers all of its Extension and Research programs and services without discrimination.