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Protecting Women and Girls from HIV/AIDS

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

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

Microbicides for Women

NIAID's Microbicide Trials Network 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 agents. In a landmark development, the HIV/AIDS research and advocacy community recently celebrated the first proof that an antiretroviral drug could be formulated into a vaginal gel that can protect women from HIV infection.

PrEP for Women

NIAID also 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 antiretroviral 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. The VOICE clinical trial, funded by NIAID, is testing both PrEP and a microbicide in women.

Other Studies on Women and HIV/AIDS

Other studies underway to understand the female face of HIV/AIDS include the Women’s Interagency Health Study, which has been researching the impact of HIV infection on women in the United States for more than 16 years with sponsorship from NIAID and other institutes at the National Institutes of Health. In addition, through the Women's HIV SeroIncidence Study (ISIS), NIAID-supported scientists are learning how to deliver urgently needed HIV prevention and treatment services to women at high risk for HIV infection who live in inner city impoverished, largely minority neighborhoods.

Learn more about NIAID’s HIV/AIDS research.

See NIH-supported HIV/AIDS clinical trials currently recruiting volunteers.

Last Updated March 07, 2011

Last Reviewed March 04, 2011