The Office on Women’s Health of the Department of Health and Human Services held their second annual walk-a-thon last Thursday, March 10th to observe the National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD). The festivities began in the late morning as the participants assembled at the Sylvan Theater on the National Mall across from the Washington Monument. The pre-walk program included a phenomenal performance by the Eastern High School band from Northeast Washington, D.C., accompanied by their fabulous cheerleaders. The band and cheerleaders led the walk along Independence Avenue to the Hubert H. Humphrey Building in Southwest Washington. Guided by the police cruiser, the crowd stopped traffic as they marched and cheered in response to honks of support and thumbs up from vehicles that passed the procession. At the HHS headquarters at 200 Independence Avenue, SW, the crowd listened to several speakers, while free condoms were passed out, and the Walker Whitman Clinic offered free HIV testing during the program.
Every year on March 10th, and throughout the month of March, federal, national, and community organizations come together to show support for women and girls impacted by HIV and AIDS. This year marks the 11th observance of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.
Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation, along with Inter-African Committee (IAC-USA) and the Women’s Health Coalition joined the walk-a-thon. As you are aware, HIV is one of the many health risks as a result of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C); therefore the presence of anti-FGM/C activists was very much in line with the campaign to end FGM/C.
The theme of the day this year was “The Best Defense Is a Good Offense”. The Office on Women’s Health (OWH) wants to empower women and girls to make the best choices when it comes to sex. They promote abstinence, which is the surest way but realistically, if girls decide to engage in a sexual encounter, there are effective steps they can take to protect themselves from HIV. One of the speakers made the point that even though she has dated the same man for the past fifteen years, she still gets tested.
According to the Office of Women’s Health, about one in four people living with HIV in the United States is female. Only about half of women living with HIV are getting care, and only four in 10 of them have the virus under control. Women face unique HIV risks and challenges that can prevent them from getting needed care and treatment.
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