March encompasses National Women's Health Week (which is usually recognized all month) AND Women's History Month, so that alone is a power-packed reason to celebrate being a woman!
Within this month, which has always represented springtime and beauty to me, I will be recognizing International Women's Day on March 8 as well as National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD) on March 10. Let's just add my personal bonus high five moment of the month when Ms. Lupita Nyong'o won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for the film 12 Days a Slave. The month is nowhere near over and that moment was epic for me. So, I can only imagine what this weekend will bring with our local heroes of womanhood.
Of all of this, as you probably guessed, the one that means the most to me personally to recognize is NWGHAAD. Sponsored by the Office of Women's Health, it's reported that nationally, HIV/AIDS impacts women in a way that of the 1.1 million people living in the United States with the virus, women account for 1 out of every 4. And those are the ones that KNOW they are HIV positive, the one woman every 47 minutes that tests positive.
While there are conversations at the table regarding access to quality health care, reproductive justice cases, treatment research studies and breakthroughs on the horizon, there are still many women and girls in the gap, behind the rapid-release info age we live in, that still need the basic hand holding attention, care and nurturing in understanding how HIV/AIDS impacts them and that they don't have to be left in the trenches.
There are women with strong socio-economic barriers, exposure to domestic violence and psychological histories that prevent them from putting their health concerns first.
They need to know that they can trust their physicians. They need to know that there are communities structured to empower them. They need to know their lives are valid and worth fighting for. They need to be seen, accounted for and led to see the vision that is on the horizon of a cure. But we can't do that, if we don't look for them, instead of past them.
A consensus statement quoted from a recent press release with IAPAC, the International Association of Providers of AIDS Care reads:
"HIV affects as many women as men worldwide, yet the challenges faced by these women can be muted by stigma and misunderstanding. Women living with HIV deserve access to comprehensive and individualized care, information, and support that is free from discrimination. As a global community, we must collectively help women access the care and support they rightfully deserve. We aim to ensure women have the tools and resources to engage in productive dialogue that strives to improve their care."
Then there are some that think everything in the states mostly is great when it comes to discussing HIV/AIDS. So much, that many don't even think it's an issue anymore. It's frustrating for me when I still get looks if I bring up HIV/AIDS or someone rolls their eyes. A cure hasn't been found yet. People are still being infected, but don't talk about it? We don't talk enough about this on a large scale publicly. It's in the forums and it's on the conference calls, but where is the public display of urgency for women's rights in HIV/AIDS? This is a health issue! All should be concerned. There needs to be a fiercer battle against complacency towards health and sexual responsibility, but it will take commitment from all the various organizations that all have great mission statements and vision to work together for the greater good of women. I know they are out there, I know the desire is there, and I know the platform is waiting.
Are you going to step up to it? It doesn't take much. Post a status update, tweet your concerns, repost this blog if you want. You can take it further than social media. You can attend events, take pics and post them with HIV awareness hash tags. The Red Pump Project has a stellar one for women, but please follow their guidelines in using their logo or tagline #RockTheRedPump.
So, I'm going to put on my emPOWERed shirt, head to my local events (if you can't get to an event, there's still an opportunity to have your voice heard), and raise a fist in unity for women worldwide in our healing, our inspiration and our victory!