There are many “days”, but today is important: It’s National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

I’ve had it on my blog for months. Of course, if you don’t visit my blog, you haven’t seen it, and even if you do visit my blog, you probably glossed right over it.  It’s actually pretty important, and I might add, if you notice on the brainypintsizer.com, I have almost no “badges” — you know, all those cute, usually round or square ad buttons that re-direct visitors to other blogs or websites?

In the top right corner of my homepage is this — an ad for “Rock the Red Pump” created and sponsored by The Red Pump Project in recognition of “National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day” (See The Office on Women’s Health).

RedPumpProject-RocktheRedPump-March10-2013

The number of girls and women who contract HIV — the Human Immunodeficiency Virus — still continue to rise in certain parts of the world.  Furthermore, there’s a huge divide between races of those living with HIV/AIDS in the United States alone.

I copied the following from amfAR*** — I hope they don’t mind, but they’re such a terrific resource and they remain at the forefront of research and education.  If it’s unclear, you can click directly into the image, and I’ve hyperlinked the page…(see “amfAR” within this paragraph and below in “References”):

Capture-AmFAR-WomenandHIV-AIDS-Dec2012

The most disturbing of the bullet points is the 5th: “African Americans and Hispanics represent 26 percent of all women in the U.S. but they account for 82 percent of AIDS cases among women.”  (I injected the italics for emphasis.)  Eight-two percent?!  Does this alarm anyone else?

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There are instances of contraction when it’s absolutely preventable.  For example, the belief by young and old (yes, so let’s cut the crap that adults, even older adults, aren’t contracting HIV or living with AIDS — that’s simply not true) that “it won’t happen to me”.  (BTW, condoms are not the be all and end all. They are a preventative measure, but by no means are they a savior, especially when misused.)

But there are instances of contraction as a result of or related to cultural beliefs, economics, the sex trade, sex trafficking, and rape, for example, (and no, I’m not talking about the Todd Aiken, Rick Santorum, et. al. definitions or explanations) that take place every day, not only in “underdeveloped” or “Third World” countries, but in more “civilized”, “far superior” and “normal” societies like the great, old U.S. of A.

Side Note:  Yes, I placed those words in quotes for a reason. Too often, arrogance and ignorance by people who should know better toss these words around when comparing the United States to other countries…I guess, it’s to somehow to prove or claim that the U.S. is better?  I’m always irritated by this.

Well, whatever some may think, the reality is, it doesn’t matter where you come from, your status in life or what virtues you purport to posses.  HIV happens, and it is still a very real problem.

This feature story from UNAIDS may be two years old, but the problems remain the same for so many females around the world: “The right of women and girls living with HIV to sexual and reproductive health take centre stage at the CSW,” published on February 25, 2011.

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I’d like to speak from my heart for a minute…as an “island girl”.

If you are fortunate enough to live in a country where you have access to medicine and some of the best treatments. Great. Count yourself lucky.  There are millions who do not.  Too often women die leaving children to fend for themselves. Little girls die having not had the chance to live to become mothers in a healthy and safe way — although in many cases, if they’re old enough, they’re “mothering” their own siblings after their parent’s (or parents’) death.

When you think HIV and AIDS, you might think — Africa.  And yes, the rates of HIV and AIDS are of grave concern in Africa, particularly Sub-Saharan Africa (Note: “1 in every 20 adults are living with HIV”*).  But did you know, the Caribbean is one of the most “heavily affected regions” following Sub-Saharan Africa?  Don’t believe me.  Read the 2012 UNAIDS report.  Better yet, here’s the Latin America & the Caribbean Fact Sheet — it’s short and sweet and has highlights to make your life easier.  In truth, the numbers have dropped over the years and continue to drop (Note: “There has been a 42% reduction in new HIV infections in the Caribbean”*) — which is great news. But there are still cultural, economical, religious, general irresponsibility and recklessness, corruption (yes, surprise, surprise, corruption is rampant) and just plain ignorance and stupidity, getting in the way regarding education and preventative measures.  This is more than just troubling.  It’s sad, especially when your people are dying.

Side Note: If you elect politicians who do not speak for you, you have no-one to blame but yourself.  If you listen to the words of those who are grounded in the way things “used to be” as opposed to reality, you have no-one to blame for yourself.  Life changes. We all need to change with it.  In Latin America and the Caribbean, they’re learning this the hard way.

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But, I’m not done.  The UNAIDS Global Fact Sheet* also makes note of the following…

Capture-UNAIDS-2012FactSheet-WorldwideReport-Women

By the way, as infection rates — male and female combined — across populations drop in certain parts of the world, not so in the far-superior-to-anywhere-else North America…(just throwing it out there — sorry, I couldn’t help but be sarcastic):

Capture-UNAIDS-2012FactSheet-NorthAmerica-NumbersIncreased

Another bit of reading that might be of interest can be found in the section on page 8 entitled, “Impact on the lives of women and girls (individual/community)” of the UNAIDS Discussion Paper, “Impact of the global economic crisis on women, girls and gender equality.”  (See link below)

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All the grassroots efforts, all the efforts with multi-million dollar fundraisers and benefactors with extremely deep pockets in the world can only do so much.  We must — and by “we”, I mean, women — must become more vocal about activities in our immediate and extended communities when it has to do with HIV and AIDS.  We must talk to our daughters and nieces, not just about pregnancy, but also about communicable diseases. We must talk to our daughters and nieces about prevention — abstinence, yes, but also condom use.  We must talk to our daughters and nieces about empowerment, helping them to lift their self-esteem and their feelings of self-worth.  Dependency on men, reliance on men, continue to be problematic.  Of course, I’m not naive. There are often deep cultural issues at play that make it difficult — h*ll, d*mn near impossible — for women and girls to have a say-so in their lives.  Sad but true: To be born female, by and large, you’re “less than” — and I’m not just zeroing on certain cultures. Just look around. Who’s at the top of the food chain in business, for example? Um…okay then.

Women need to be in control of their bodies — plain and simple. We need better access to health care.  We need to have the confidence to speak up in situations that may be uncomfortable related to our health, such as at doctors appointments, which we often don’t do, especially when the doctor is male.  We need to exercise good, old common sense and self-respect.  We females have an uncanny “sixth sense” — if you think “maybe this isn’t a good idea”, there’s a good chance, it isn’t.  We’ve all had those thoughts.  Wrap. It. Up.!

And fathers, uncles, brothers — yes, you! — you also need to speak up when you know a female cannot do so for themselves.  To sit by and do nothing is shameful and reprehensible.  Why wouldn’t you speak up?  Why?

For those who can’t speak up, we need to do so on their behalf.  

So, in honor of the National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, I’m rockin’ the red pump and advocating for women and girls.  Are you?

Red Pump Project - Moi - 2          Red Pump Project - Moi - 1

P.S.  I’m sorry if I was all over the place on this post. But there’s so much to say and just not enough time and words to say them. But, you get the gist and where I’m coming from.  Girls matter. Women matter.  Our health matters.

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References:

* UNAIDS – The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS | 2012 World AIDS Day – Global Fact Sheet

** UNAIDS – The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS | 2012 World AIDS Day – Campaign Fact Sheet for Latin America and the Caribbean

*** UNAIDS – The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS | Discussion Paper – Impact of the global economic crisis on women, girls and gender equality (published in 2012)

**** amfAR – Statistics: Women and HIV/AIDS (published in December 2012)

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Alright, so when are we going to meet The End? Like at what time? *looks for (fiscal) cliff*

Photo Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you’re reading this, it’s Friday, and I. have. no. idea. what’s. going. on. because we’re not supposed to be here.  Not sure what this means because I envisioned nothing-ness.  I figured we’d be gone-ers, and you know, I wouldn’t have to worry about paying any bills (winning!) and dealing with yet another transit fare hike (the fourth in five years, if you’re wondering — yep, only in New York, kids. Only in New York.).

Hmmmm…Okay…Um… *drums fingers* …Mm… What do we do now?  Actually, I’m wondering, slightly paranoid if Armageddon is lurking around the corner ready to pounce on us! eek. *eyes dart from side to side*

Don’t know about you, but I’m not appreciating all this suspense.  I usually don’t mind surprises, but this is the kind of surprise I’m not sure I’m ready for.  I was hoping I wouldn’t have to open my eyes and have to deal with this crap.  You know what?  Now I’m pissed.  Because I thought it would be quick and painless, and now, we’re watching the clock.  I mean, was this thing to go down in Eastern Standard Time?  Pacific?  And whenever it’s supposed to be, are we talking 11:59:59 p.m.?

Alright, so when are we going to meet The End?  Like at what time?  *looks for (fiscal) cliff*

Now I’m going to have to go to work and finish e-mailing our d*mn corporate holiday card, which by the way, one of the execs commented was, “H-iiii-de-oussss” — complete with exaggerated facial expressions and dramatic whispering.  (P.S. Guess who approached me to distribute our “hideous” e-cards to their mailing list? kmt.)

Between the two-faced executive, the ‘Fiscal Cliff’, the Rolling Stones’ 50th Anniversary, the fact that Ricky Martin’s run on Broadway as a lead in “Evita” is almost over, and last night’s warning to hunker down because severe weather of extremely high winds will be whipping through the tri-state area today, maybe The End is near?

*sighs and accepts fate of Mayan apocalypse (while checking Norwegian Cruise Line reservation on the “Epic” for next year)*