Press Release

March 10, 2009


“HIV is Right Here at Home”
State Public Health Director Promotes Education and Encourages Testing for National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day  

HIV/AIDS cases on the rise in women

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – As areas in Illinois report a significant increase in the number of HIV/AIDS cases among women, Dr. Damon T. Arnold, state public health director, is encouraging Illinoisans to observe National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day this Tuesday, March 10. This year’s theme is “HIV is Right Here at Home” and holds true in Illinois.

“We’re seeing the number of HIV/AIDS diagnoses among women increase, which is why it is so important that women know what behaviors put them at risk for HIV/AIDS and the importance of testing,” said Dr. Arnold.

Early in the epidemic, HIV infection and AIDS were diagnosed for relatively few women and female adolescents. But today, women account for more than a quarter of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The largest number of HIV/AIDS diagnoses during recent years has been for women aged 15-39, for all races and ethnicities.

In Illinois, provisional 2008 numbers show 32,155 people in Illinois were living with HIV/AIDS and women made up 22 percent of that number. Women also represented 25 percent of new HIV/AIDS infections in 2008.

Women of color are especially affected by the disease. In 2008, 68 percent of women living with HIV/AIDS in Illinois were African American; 12 percent were Hispanic; 17 percent were Caucasian. Also in 2008, African-American women accounted for 68 percent of new HIV/AIDS infections in women; Hispanic women accounted for 10 percent; Caucasian women accounted for 13 percent. HIV/AIDS is a leading cause of death for African-American women ages 15-44, and Hispanic women ages 35-54 according to the National Center for Health Statistics, National Vital Statistics System.

In 2008, 62 percent of women for which a risk was reported were infected through heterosexual contact; 32 percent were infected through injection drug use.

What you can to do to protect yourself and others:

  • Be safe: The best way to prevent HIV is to abstain from having sex. If you do have sex, use a new latex condom every time. Do not share needles or syringes.

  • Talk about it: Talk about sex and HIV with your partners. Find out when they were last tested for HIV and what their status was. Be clear that you will be having safer sex…or none at all.

  • Get tested: If you are sexually active, you should get tested for HIV.

  • Spread the word: Thousands of women are infected with HIV each year. Set an example by getting tested and spreading the word that others should do the same.

You can always call the Illinois AIDS/HIV & STD Hotline at 1-800-243-2437 or TTY (hearing impaired use only) 1-800-782-0423. It’s free and anonymous (no names). Trained counselors can help to answer your questions and help you to find a testing site that’s right for you. They are available seven days a week (9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends).

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Illinois Department of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Phone 217-782-4977
Fax 217-782-3987
TTY 800-547-0466
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