March 10, today, is National Women and Girls HIV Awareness Day, and this year’s theme is “The Best Defense is a Good Offense.” For those of us at Girls Inc., we help practice a “Good Offense” by arming girls with the knowledge and assertiveness skills to help make positive choices and avoid risky behaviors associated with contracting HIV.
During our Preventing Adolescent Pregnancy program, girls learn vital information about what HIV is, how it is transmitted, and how they can prevent contracting it. They learn that abstinence is the only 100% effective way to prevent the transmission of STIs (sexually transmitted infections). They also practice being assertive when discussing sexual activity with a partner, learning how to advocate for their own health by mandating the use of protection in the form of condoms and other barriers.
Not only is this information vital as the girls mature into young women who will need to make smart choices regarding their sexual health, but it can also come into play in other aspects of their lives since HIV can also be transmitted through the sharing of needles. In 2015, 13% of women diagnosed with HIV contracted it through injection drug use, while 86% contracted it through heterosexual sex (https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/group/gender/women/index.html).
Knowledge is power. And in order to ensure our girls are strong, smart, and bold, we want them to be armed with the knowledge they need to help keep themselves safe.