News & Updates

HIV Prevention Is Failing Women and Girls. This #NWGHAAD, Women & Girls Deserve Better!

On March 10, we commemorate National Women & Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day by highlighting the impact HIV has on women and girls.  On this day, public health systems put lots of effort into encouraging women and girls to make healthy choices about their sexual health behaviors, but often completely fail at addressing the many systemic challenges that still prevent women and girls from accessing lifesaving prevention options, specifically PrEP.   According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 7% of women who could benefit from PrEP received a prescription in 2018, despite making up 19% of new HIV diagnoses.   Let’s make women’s sexual health matter by immediately addressing barriers to PrEP with these 4 steps! 

Increase Inclusion of  Women and Girls In PrEP Research  

For decades biomedical research has largely failed to adequately represent women and girls in HIV research, and still today, they experience huge disparities in PrEP research.  More than two years after Descovy (TAF/FTC) was approved for PrEP, there is still no data on effectiveness for people assigned female at birth.  Disparities in research ultimately lead to disparities in access, with fewer biomedical prevention options for women and girls who Truvada (TDF/FTC) may not be ideal.   Cisgender and transgender women must be adequetly represented in all future clinical trials as we continue to grow options for PrEP.  

Put PrEP Where Women Are Receiving Sexual & Reproductive Health Services

Most PrEP education and access exists in community-based organizations and health departments, but fails to reach women and girls where they already go for sexual and reproductive health services. To increase PrEP uptake, there must be a robust investment in PrEP services with providers who already reach women and girls such as community health centers, sexual and reproductive health clinics.  This includes educating medical providers and staff,in order to guarantee that all patients are talked to about PrEP, despite perceived HIV risk.  

Hey CDC! Women Need PrEP Education Too!

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has spent many years focusing its prevention messaging on people “at risk” which has not helped people who could benefit from PrEP but don’t perceive themselves to be “at risk” for HIV.  Being “at risk” is subjective, but it is also extremely stigmatizing and actually prevents many from  considering PrEP as something for their sexual health.  CDC must partner with communications experts to better understand ways that communities disproportionately impacted by HIV receive prevention messaging and disseminate new messaging and social marketing that better resonate with women and girls of different backgrounds.  

Public Health Has Failed Women with Oral PrEP. Let’s Do Better with Long-Acting PrEP.

During the rollout of oral PrEP, marketing and education was almost exclusively targeted towards cisgender gay and bisexual men, with women being largely excluded in most marketing materials.  A decade later, this has left lasting effects in how the public perceives who can utilize PrEP. With long-acting injectable PrEP being recently FDA-approved, public health advocates must use the rollout of LA-CAB as an opportunity to create equitable marketing strategies that reaches and includes both cisgender and transgender women.   

For National Women & Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, we must commit to increasing access to PrEP education, gender-inclusive PrEP research, investment in biomedical strategies and interventions, and fair representation marketing.  We cannot end the HIV epidemic by continuing to treat women and girls as an afterthought in PrEP access and awareness.   

National HIV Prevention Program