BIRMINGHAM, AL —AIDS Alabama will observe National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD) on Thursday, March 10, 2011. The agency will host a community-wide event in honor of NWGHAAD from 10am-2pm at Southeastern School of Cosmetology in Birmingham. Free, on-site, rapid HIV testing, giveaways, and more will be provided.
Today about one in four Americans living with HIV is a woman, and another woman in the United States is diagnosed with HIV every 35 minutes. These sobering facts are the foundation of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, coordinated annually by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Women’s Health.
“The impact of the HIV epidemic on women, especially women of color, continues to grow in the United States. Since 1985, women have gone from making up 8% to 27% as of 2000. Alabama is no exception,” says Kathie Hiers, CEO of AIDS Alabama. According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, approximately 4,300 women in Alabama have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. African-American women account for approximately 76% of those cases.
“The South has more HIV-positive women than any other area of the country,” says Hiers, “We cannot effectively address the epidemic in the South and in Alabama until we address the devastating impact on women and girls.”
AIDS Alabama’s most recent response to the impact of HIV on women is Beauty in Knowing, an HIV prevention program targeting African-American women. Funded by Johnson & Johnson and AIDS United, Beauty in Knowing is a five-session HIV prevention program targeting women in local cosmetology programs.
“Beauty in Knowing is unique because it takes advantage of an educational setting that is primarily composed of women who fit into the demographic of those in our community at greatest risk for HIV infection,” says Dafina Ward, Project Manager for Beauty in Knowing. “Increased HIV infection among African-American women has been attributed to a number of factors—socioeconomics, lack of comprehensive sexual health education, and the perception that women are not at risk. Our program addresses all of these issues and empowers stylists-in-training to see themselves as sources of accurate information for clients. A hair stylist does so much more than hair. They also serve as their clients’ confidante and sounding board. Through this program women learn the importance of protecting themselves from HIV and are encouraged to share that information with others.” Beauty in Knowing is currently provided to students at Lawson State Community College and Southeastern School of Cosmetology, both in the Greater Birmingham area.