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Protecting Women and Girls from HIV/AIDS

On National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, March 10, we recognize the more than 278,000 women and teenage girls in the United States who are infected with HIV and the 101,000 women and girls in this country who have died of AIDS since the disease was first recognized.

NIAID conducts and supports extensive research to understand, prevent and treat HIV infection in women and to preserve the health of women who are infected with the virus.

NIAID Supports Development of Female-Controlled HIV Prevention Methods

Most women with HIV/AIDS became infected through sex, frequently in settings where refusing sex or insisting on condom use were not options due to cultural factors, financial dependence or even the threat of violence. For these reasons, NIAID supports research on products that women could use independently of their sexual partners to protect themselves from HIV.

For instance, NIAID's Microbicide Trials Network (MTN) has numerous studies underway to develop and evaluate vaginal and rectal gels, films and rings designed to prevent infection by HIV and other sexually transmitted pathogens. One of these studies is a clinical trial testing the safety of a vaginal ring that releases two anti-HIV drugs over an extended period.

In addition, the MTN's VOICE clinical trial is testing in women the promising HIV prevention strategy known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, in which HIV-negative individuals at high risk for the virus take a daily dose of an anti-HIV drug in an effort to prevent infection. Like a microbicide, PrEP represents a form of HIV prevention that the user can control independently of his or her sexual partner.

NIAID, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development co-fund the MTN.

NIAID Study Seeks Approach to Preserve Health of HIV-Infected Mothers

NIAID also supports studies on how strategies to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission impact the long-term health of mothers. For example, among HIV-infected women who don't yet need treatment, the PROMISE study is examining the health effects of receiving a short-term, three-drug regimen during pregnancy and breastfeeding to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission.

WIHS Researches Unique Impact of HIV/AIDS in Women

Finally, the Women's Interagency Health Study (WIHS) has been researching the impact of HIV infection on women in the United States for 19 years with sponsorship from NIAID and other Institutes at the National Institutes of Health. As the largest observational study of HIV/AIDS in women in this country, WIHS has made numerous major contributions to understanding how the virus is spread, how the disease progresses and how to best treat it. The study also is at the forefront of research to define the signs and symptoms of long-term HIV infection.

Last Updated February 27, 2012

Last Reviewed February 24, 2012