Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day: An Opportunity to Support our Sisters!

Human Rights Campaign
March 9, 2012

This guest post is from Kathie Hiers, Chief Executive Officer of AIDS Alabama and member of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS

I was recently watching an old Saturday Night Live from 1977 in which the news anchors ofWeekend Update, Jane Curtin and Dan Aykroyd, were heatedly debating the issue of women’s reproductive health rights.  I can’t believe that these same conversations are happening 35 years later!  For women and girls at risk of HIV infection or living with HIV/AIDS, access to appropriate care and services unique to women is exceptionally important.  Unfortunately, the only HIV funding specifically for women and families living with HIV/AIDS is on the chopping block.  This funding is known as Part D of the Ryan White program, and it is the only piece of the Ryan White legislation that has been recommended for a cut in the President’s budget.  We need to rally as a community to fight this cut of more than $7 million.

The slated cut in the women’s portion of Ryan White is not our only problem.  Some of the legislation recently proposed at the federal level by anti-gay, Republicans is almost too ludicrous to take seriously.  For example:

  • Defunding of Planned Parenthood, which provides sexual and reproductive health care and education to almost five million women, men, and adolescents worldwide each year;
  • Cuts to comprehensive sexual education funding, such as funding to the Division of Adolescent Sexual Health; and
  • Denial of access to Title X, including access to affordable contraception and cancer screenings.

The recent attack on Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke by Rush Limbaugh has come to represent another “war on women.”  It is harmful and demeaning to women and girls. We must work together to fight for real education for our kids, not fairy-tale, abstinence-only curricula that pretend that young people don’t have sex.

I was proud of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS on February 28, when they devoted the day to the issues of women living with and at risk of HIV. The domestic epidemic is almost 25 percent female, particularly impacting minorities and southern women.  This reinforces why the needs of HIV-positive women and young people must be covered by the new Affordable Care Act.

Finally, this is an election year, your vote is needed to ensure that fair, open-minded lawmakers remain in office, or are elected, in lieu of those who would sacrifice the health needs of our sisters.