The most recent surveillance data collected by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) indicates that 6,600 women are living with HIV disease in Virginia. Forty-eight percent of those cases progressed to an AIDS diagnosis by the end of last year. This data shines a light on the impact that HIV has upon women.
“HIV and AIDS are taking a toll on the lives of women and their families,” said Interim State Health Commissioner Marissa J. Levine, MD, MPH. “The health of women is indicative of the health of our Commonwealth. One way to improve the lives of women, and therefore families, is to empower women with knowledge and support for healthy living.”
VDH is doing just that. In collaboration with a coalition of public and private sector partners, VDH has launched a new statewide public health campaign. The campaign, called Virginia Greater Than AIDS (Virginia>AIDS), reaches out to women through personal stories and conversations.
“Partnering with Greater Than AIDS allows us to combat the stigma surrounding this disease through various approaches,” said Elaine Martin, director of HIV Prevention Services. “Virginians will see these public health messages on television, radio, billboards, public transportation, websites, social networking sites and at statewide community events. Because of the disproportionate impact HIV has on African American women and girls, we took special care to select the ‘Empowered’ campaign to be part of our Virginia Greater Than AIDS launch.”
The entire Virginia Greater Than AIDS campaign will come in three waves:
- · Deciding Moments—features stories of individuals, including those living with HIV/AIDS, that highlight everyday opportunities to take a stand against the disease. The Virginia>AIDS website (http://greaterthan.org/
states/virginia/) allows visitors who have been affected by the disease, regardless of their own HIV status, to post their own deciding moments on the website to inspire hope in others.
- · I Got Tested—connects individuals throughout the state to free testing resources in their communities by way of hotlines and web resources. This wave will debut in preparation for National HIV Testing Day on June 27 as VDH partners with select Walgreens stores to provide free and confidential HIV screenings.
- · Empowered—features Alicia Keys sharing her conversation with five HIV-positive women from across the country. This campaign debuts in preparation for National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on March 10.
“The trend that we are seeing—HIV disease progressing to AIDS– is preventable, just like this disease,” said Levine. “For women who have HIV, early diagnosis and medical care can lead to improved health outcomes. This year, for National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, get tested and find out your status. Make sure that you can live a longer and healthier life for yourself and for your family and loved ones.”
For information about HIV/AIDS and locations for confidential testing, contact the Disease Prevention Hotline toll-free at (800) 533-4148 or visit www.greaterthan.org/virginia for information on testing services in your area.