On March 10 the nation marked National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD), an observance that raises Americans' awareness of the impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls. Of the more than 1.1 million people living with HIV in America, 1 in 4 are female. Women represent 27 percent of all new AIDS diagnoses, with African-American women accounting for 66 percent of that demographic. In many parts of the country, NWGHAAD activities took place all month.
The fifth annual Rock the Red Pump campaign generated conversation about how HIV/AIDS affects women by inviting them to share pictures of themselves on social media wearing their favorite red shoes. Red Pump also held a fashion show in Chicago. Event founders Luvvie Ajayi and Karyn Watkins say, "If it affects one of us, it affects us all." The campaign also participated in nationwide health fairs, panel discussions and community events focused on improving health outcomes and building critical alliances with community agencies and faith-based organizations.
AVAC (the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition) and The Black AIDS Institute co-sponsored a Twitter chat featuring SisterLove, Inc. Founded in Atlanta in 1989, SisterLove educates women about HIV/AIDS prevention, self-help and safer-sex techniques through support and human-rights advocacy. The organization also teamed up with the Center of Excellence on Health Disparities Research at the Georgia State University School of Public Health to host "Women and HIV/AIDS: 20 Years Later." Made possible by a grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, the event commemorated the 20th anniversary of the inclusion of women in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's definition of HIV/AIDS.
Many cities and organizations continued observing NWGHAAD throughout March. Denver's online community joined the NWGHAAD Thunderclap. Thunderclap is a "crowd-speaking" platform that helps people get heard by sharing the same message at the same time. It spread through Facebook and Twitter, creating a wave of attention. The "waves" were geared toward helping women get tested, find health care and prevent HIV.
On March 29 in Washington, D.C., Divas, MPH observed its day of service with "Saving our Sisters From HIV/AIDS: A Day of Labor & Love." Members delivered food to those infected with or otherwise affected by HIV/AIDS.
The Greater Than AIDS movement supported NWGHAAD by making free informational and promotional materials available for community groups nationwide. Beyond NWGHAAD, Greater Than AIDS also runs Empowered, a campaign that affirms the power of women—mothers, daughters, sisters, friends, partners and PLWHA—to take everyday actions to change the course of the epidemic.
Gerald Garth is a Los Angeles-based writer, actor and accountant who works for The Black AIDS Institute.
As published in the Black AIDS Weekly