|Statement of Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., Director, National Institute
of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, on National
Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
March 10, 2006 marks the first National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness
Day. This day of recognition serves to raise awareness of the increasing impact
of HIV/AIDS on women and girls in the United States and throughout the world.
In the early days of the pandemic, relatively few women were infected with HIV.
Today, however, women and girls represent one of the fastest growing groups affected
In 2004, 27 percent of all AIDS cases in the United States occurred in women,
compared with only 7 percent in 1985, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention. Women of color, especially African-American women, represent
the vast majority of new cases among women. Among women newly diagnosed with
HIV/AIDS between 2001 and 2004, an estimated 83 percent were African American
or Hispanic. Younger women and girls are particularly vulnerable: females accounted
for 38 percent of all individuals younger than 25 years diagnosed with HIV/AIDS
from 2001-2004, compared with 27 percent of people aged 25 years and older.
Globally, the number of women and girls infected by HIV also continues to rise.
In 2005, approximately 17.5 million women (46 percent of adults) were living
with HIV/AIDS — one million more than in 2003, according to estimates of the Joint
United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). Worldwide, the vast majority of
women and girls with HIV/AIDS became infected via heterosexual intercourse, frequently
in settings where saying no to sex or insisting on condom use is not an option
because of cultural factors, lack of financial independence and even the threat
Women experience HIV/AIDS differently from men. Biologically, they are more
susceptible to acquiring HIV infection. Once infected, women suffer gender-specific
manifestations of HIV, such as recurrent vaginal infections and their complications,
as well as progression of disease at lower levels of virus. In addition, drug
metabolism has been shown to differ in women versus men, potentially resulting
in differential responses to antiretroviral therapy and an increased incidence
of drug toxicities in women. Frequently, women infected with HIV have difficulty
accessing health care, and they may carry the additional burden of caring for
children and other family members who also are HIV-infected. They often lack
social support and face other challenges that may interfere with their ability
to adhere to treatment regimens. Research also shows that generally, HIV-infected
women are diagnosed and enter health care services at later stages of infection
To stop the disturbing trend of an increasingly female HIV/AIDS pandemic, we
need new ways of thinking. Women must be empowered so that they can exert control
over their own lives, particularly in their sexual relations. Toward that end,
increased educational and employment opportunities for girls and women are essential,
including gender-based AIDS education and societal campaigns that delineate the
harmful effects of inequality in gender relations.
Woman-focused research is essential. In this regard, NIAID supports the Women's
Interagency HIV Study (WIHS) aimed at better understanding the course of HIV/AIDS
disease in women. In addition to WIHS, NIAID supports other clinical research
networks to investigate gender-specific differences in HIV disease progression,
complications and/or treatment, as well as tools of prevention. Since women are
so severely affected by the pandemic, more women are needed to participate in
clinical trials in order to address these gender-specific issues. Promising research
includes the development and testing of new topical microbicides. When used prior
to sexual intercourse, these woman-controlled agents may help protect women from
HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. NIAID supports a full spectrum
of microbicide research, from basic research to clinical evaluation, with the
goal of developing potentially lifesaving tools. NIAID funding for topical microbicide
research rose from $27 million in fiscal year 2001 to an estimated $52 million
in fiscal year 2006.
National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day provides an opportunity to encourage
women and girls to take personal responsibility for their own health and well-being,
and reaffirms the commitment of the general public and the medical and public
health communities to focus more attention on education, prevention, and treatment
efforts among women and girls. Today, we renew our commitment to research aimed
at measures that will empower women to protect themselves against this deadly
Dr. Fauci is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.
Media inquiries can be directed to the NIAID News Office at 301-402-1663, firstname.lastname@example.org.
NIAID is a component of the National Institutes of Health, an agency of
the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIAID supports basic and
applied research to prevent, diagnose and treat infectious diseases such as
HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, influenza, tuberculosis,
malaria and illness from potential agents of bioterrorism. NIAID also supports
research on transplantation and immune-related illnesses, including autoimmune
disorders, asthma and allergies.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's Medical Research
Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of
the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal
agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical
research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common
and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov.