DPH Observes National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

March 9, 2015

Alicia Keys, Grammy Award-winning performing artist, is teaming up with Greater Than AIDS to promote National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on March 10. As a devoted HIV/AIDS advocate, Keys is using her star power to educate the nation about the impact of HIV/AIDS on women in the United States.

National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is coordinated by the Office on Women’s Health (OWH) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services alongside many organizations that play a critical role in the observance throughout communities across the nation. Greater Than AIDS supports this outreach effort by providing free promotional materials for community groups to use around HIV/AIDS awareness.

To help engage and reach women, Greater Than AIDS launched its “Empowered” campaign developed with Keys that affirms the power of women to change the course of HIV through every day actions. The cross-platform campaign includes public service announcements, social media promotions, informational materials and a powerful visual component, “We Are Empowered,” which is an inspiring half-hour video of Keys in conversation with five women living with HIV.

There are more than 1.2 million people living with HIV in the United States. Today, 1 in 4 people living with HIV is a woman. Women of color have been disproportionally impacted by HIV, accounting for the majority of new HIV infections occurring among women in the nation.

According to Georgia's 2012 Population Estimates, African-Americans accounted for 64 percent of adults living with HIV. Black women represented 75 percent of women with HIV in the state.

Masonia Traylor, 28, was diagnosed in October 2010 during a routine pap smear and STD screening with her obstetrician and gynecologist (OB/GYN). Two weeks later, Traylor learned that she was four weeks pregnant.

“When I was a teenager, I was told that HIV could live dormant in your body for 10 years,” said Traylor. “During my annual exam, I requested an HIV test because I wanted to know my status. I have always advocated for my health.” 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HIV is spread mainly through sex or by sharing drug-use equipment with an infected person. Substance use can contribute to these risks indirectly because alcohol and other drugs can lower people’s inhibitions and make them less likely to use condoms.

“I learned that getting tested was not enough prevention,” said Traylor. “As African-American childbearing women, we are protectors of the next generation. We must take care of our bodies. If we are ravaged by HIV, we cannot create an HIV free generation.”                             

Placed on an HIV treatment immediately during her first trimester of pregnancy, Traylor gave birth to an HIV negative baby girl. She was overwhelmed with the responsibilities of a newborn, a son in elementary school, bills, rent and mental stress.

To cope with the disease and the demands of her life, Traylor connected with other women living with HIV through the Empowerment Resource Center’s WILLOW (Women Involved in Life Learning from Other Women) workshop, an interactive small group and skill training intervention.

WILLOW’s workshop instructor Kim Moon, 47, understands Traylor’s mental battle. In the group discussions, HIV positive women are encourage to set goals and values, which include always using condoms for protection against all STDs.

“Your mental state is half the battle with this disease,” said Moon. “When you can’t think positive thoughts, you stigmatize yourself because of all the negative stories attached to HIV. Daily, I speak my morning affirmations to affirm myself: I’m happy, I’m healthy, I’m humble, I’m wealthy, I’m strong. I am a champion!”

With a positive outlook on her life, Traylor is now using her voice to help other women. Through the Georgia Greater Than AIDS campaign, she has served as a spokesperson to reach women about the importance of HIV/AIDS treatment and care.

Visit www.greaterthan.org/empowered to learn more about Greater Than AIDS and its Empowered campaign with Alicia Keys. To find information about HIV testing, treatment and support groups, call the Georgia HIV/AIDS Hotline at 1-800-551-2728.

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