All for the cause

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Despite heightened awareness of the disease, women are being infected with HIV at an alarming rate. Consider this troubling statistic: Women's & Children's HIV/Awareness Day promotes education and prevention of HIV through outreach efforts.women account for 1 out of every 4 new HIV/AIDS diagnoses in the U.S.

Observed on March 10 every year, National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day encourages people to take action in the fight against HIV/AIDS and raise awareness of its impact on women and girls. The event serves a dual purpose: prevention of HIV and education about HIV testing.

In its outreach efforts, Vanderbilt University has demonstrated a consistent commitment to stemming the tide. For the first time, they will take part in this national movement that educates the public about the worldwide epidemic.

Co-sponsors Vanderbilt University HIV Vaccine Program and the Vanderbilt University Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center will host a series of activities in honor of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Due to spring break, the observance has been pushed back to March 24.

"In the United States, a woman tests positive for HIV every 35 minutes," says Casey Braddy, community educator and outreach coordinator for Vanderbilt HIV Vaccine Trials. "I think some people think it’s just an African disease or a disease affecting the LGBT community, but women make up a disproportionate load of HIV infections. We encourage women to test and know their status. Women really are the educators in their community. They can go out into the community and share (these messages) with their children."

Free HIV testing will be offered by Nashville CARES and Planned Parenthood of Middle Tennessee from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the Sarratt Promenade.

"We’ll be giving them (participants) information about HIV and kind of taking out the mystery behind HIV testing," Braddy says. "They will see that it’s something that’s not so scary."

An evening panel discussion, "HIV, AIDS and Women: A 360º Perspective," is planned for 6:30-8 p.m. in the Commons All-Purpose Room to further educate participants and offer a forum for questions.

"There will be a panel discussion of women who will talk about HIV and AIDS both globally and locally," Braddy says. "We’ll also have current and former HIV vaccine participants and people doing research outside the country. We want to provide a place to give people answers."

For posters, fact sheets, the theme and more at http://www.womenshealth.gov/NWGHAAD/. For more information on Vanderbilt’s observance of Women’s & Children’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, contact Casey Braddy at casey.h.braddy@vanderbilt.edu.