News Release
March 7, 2013

Contact information

Special day calls attention to growing share of new HIV infections among women

National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is March 10

National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD) will be observed March 10 in Minnesota as a call to action to fight HIV/AIDS and to raise awareness of its impact on women in Minnesota.

"HIV/AIDS is a serious public health issue for women in our state," said Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Minnesota Commissioner of Health. "The proportion of new HIV infections among women continues to grow, particularly among our women of color."

According to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), the number and the proportion of cases among females have increased over time in Minnesota. Women represented just two percent of HIV infections reported in Minnesota in 1985 but 25 percent in 2011. Through 2011, 1,733 HIV cases have now been reported among women and an estimated 1,662 are currently living with HIV in Minnesota. Women of color, particularly African-American and African-born women, continued to have higher rates of infection compared to whites in 2011.

"NWGHAAD observance is important because it encourages women and girls in our communities to get tested and educate themselves about HIV/AIDS," said Ehlinger.

The theme for this year's observance is, "Share knowledge - Take Action". Women and girls can take action in the fight against HIV/AIDS in a variety of ways such as getting tested for HIV, avoiding high risk behaviors such as drug use and sharing needles, talking about HIV prevention with family, friends and colleagues, empowering oneself, and providing support to those living with HIV/AIDS.

"Women may not be aware of their true risk for getting infected with HIV and may not seek testing or use the proper safeguards," said Ehlinger. "Some still believe it's just a disease that infects white gay men and protection isn't necessary. Others have difficulty negotiating safer sex in their relationships. Either way, it's important to connect with available local events and resources for support, testing, treatment and care."

To help curb the epidemic in Minnesota, the STD and HIV Section at MDH currently funds 21 community-based programs and the Office of Minority and Multicultural Health funds 6 additional programs for HIV prevention and/or testing work.

Health officials emphasize that there is no cure or vaccine against HIV infection. Latex condoms are highly effective in preventing the spread of HIV. Testing for HIV and early treatment of infected persons will help them to live longer and healthier lives and will also reduce HIV transmission. It is particularly important for pregnant women to get an HIV test to help prevent transmitting HIV to their babies.

The state's HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report-2011, which includes data specific for women, can be found on the MDH website at: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/diseases/hiv/hivstatistics.html.

For more information on National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day 2013, visit the MDH website at: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/diseases/hiv/worldaidsday/womengirls/index.html or visit the U.S. Office of Women's Health website.

Information about HIV is also available from the Minnesota AIDS Project (MAP) AIDSLine, 612-373-2437 (Twin Cities Metro), 1-800-248-2437 (Statewide), 1-888-820-2437 (Statewide TTY), or mmapaidsline@mnaidsproject.org. MAP AIDSLine offers statewide information and referral services, including prevention education, HIV risk assessments, HIV testing and referrals to HIV testing sites, as well as community resources and prevention programs that serve women.

-MDH-

      Community Event - Open to the Public

      "Share Knowledge. Take Action." National Women & Girls HIV Awareness Day Brunch
      11 a.m. – 1 p.m., Sunday, March 10, 2013 at Cave Vin Restaurant, 5555 Xerxes Ave. S., Minneapolis. Join the Minnesota AIDS Project for a delicious brunch and Silent Auction while learning more about efforts to prevent HIV in Minnesota and how to support women living with HIV. $35/adults and $25/girls 21 and under. For more information and to register: http://mnaidsprojectwomensbrunch.eventbrite.com/.


Media inquiries:

Doug Schultz
MDH Communications
651-201-4993