March 11, 2010

Wrap-Up: STD Prevention Conference, HIV/AIDS Awareness & Female Condoms in D.C.

Amanda Lenhart, senior research specialist at Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, has posted her presentation on social media and young adults that was delivered this week at the National STD Prevention Conference in Atlanta. The slideshow covers the latest data on electronic and digital communciation, including cell phone usage and sexting.

Presenting with Lenhart was Kicesie Drew, who provides sex ed information via YouTube; Sally Swanson from the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina, a group that usess texting to answer questions about sexual health; and Cornelis Rietmeijer, director of the Sexually Transmitted Disease Control Program/Denver Public Health.

More health professionals are turning to innovative techniques and technologies to reach young and at-risk populations. I recently took part in a symposium, sponsored by Chicago Department of Public Health and the National LGBT Tobacco Control Network, on how public health workers can use social media to reach the LGBT community. We looked at some of the promises and obstacles that new communciation tools present. One of the most important lessons: Know how your audience uses technology, and go where they go.

I was honored to be on a panel with Lovette Ajayi, a superstar at Community Media Workshop and co-founder of the Red Pump Project, which raises awareness about the impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls. And that brings me to the second point of this post: March 10 was National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

The Red Pump Project presents statistics about HIV/AIDS  and women — and the great disparities. Though black and Latina women represent 24 percent of all U.S. women combined, they account for 82 percent of the estimated total of AIDS diagnoses for women in 2005.  Consider that HIV is the:

* Leading cause of death for black women (including African American women) aged 25–34 years.
* 3rd leading cause of death for black women aged 35–44 years.
* 4th leading cause of death for black women aged 45–54 years.
* 4th leading cause of death for Latina women aged 35–44 years.
* The only diseases causing more deaths of women are cancer and heart disease.
* The rate of AIDS diagnosis for black women was approximately 23 times the rate for white women and 4 times the rate for Latina women.

These numbers illustrate the need for massive improvements in education, prevention and treatment — all topics the National STD Prevention Conference aims to address. High-priority issues are identified for each biennial conference, and this year’s top three issues couldn’t be more  relevant or directly worded.

The last point is a great reminder of how change is both incredibly simple and complex: “It is essential to find ways to move beyond our longstanding societal reticence to openly discuss sexual health issues and to normalize conversations around STD prevention.”

Plus: In related news, Washington, D.C. will make 500,000 female condoms available — for free. The condoms will be available in beauty salons, convenience stores and high schools in parts of the city with high HIV rates, reports the Washington Post. The project is funded through a $500,000 grant from the MAC AIDS Fund, a subsidiary of MAC Cosmetics.


3 Responses to “Wrap-Up: STD Prevention Conference, HIV/AIDS Awareness & Female Condoms in D.C.”

  1. AIDS testing Says:

    If my partner test HIV negative, does that mean I am HIV negative too?

  2. Christine C. Says:

    No — if you’re concerned about your HIV status, you should get tested yourself.

  3. Will Says:

    Thanks for sharing this information. While I think the conference deals with global-level issues, the comment and your response also highlight how local the issues become. Glad you were there to educate the commenter!

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