As we reflect upon National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD) on March 10, we wanted to share this video of our recent conversation with NIH’s Dr. Gina Brown, the lead for research on women and girls and microbicides at NIH’s Office of AIDS Research. We spoke with Dr. Brown earlier this week at the 2018 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI). She shared her thoughts on the importance of the annual HIV awareness day as well as discussed some of the many research findings about HIV prevention, care, and treatment for women and girls presented at the conference and their implications for both women living with or at risk for HIV and their healthcare providers.
Since women in the U.S. are sometimes overlooked as a population affected by HIV, even though 22% of people living with HIV in the U.S. are women, Dr. Brown observed that NWGHAAD is an important opportunity to raise awareness of HIV risk among women and the steps they can take to protect themselves. Equally important is the opportunity the annual awareness day offers to emphasize the importance of care and treatment for women living with HIV and the vital roles that healthcare providers must play in both HIV prevention and treatment for women.
Among the studies presented and topics under discussion at CROI that Dr. Brown remarked on were:
- HIV Risk Increases through Pregnancy—An NIH-supported study found that a woman’s risk of acquiring HIV through sex with a male partner living with HIV increases during pregnancy and is highest during the postpartum period. (Learn more about this study in this blog post and this video with NIH’s Dr. Carl Dieffenbach, both from earlier this week at CROI.)
- PrEP for Women—Several studies were presented about the use of HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) among women in different settings, in the U.S. and around the globe. “Discussions around PrEP for women have become increasingly important,” Dr. Brown remarked. “[Here in the U.S.] We haven’t spent nearly as much time talking about how useful PrEP is for women.” (Learn more about one such study presented by CDC’s Dr. Dawn Smith at CROI in this blog post and video from earlier this week.)
- Examining Sex Differences in HIV Research—At CROI this year, there was a heightened attention to including enough women in HIV research studies and analyzing research results by sex. Sex differences research is fundamental to NIH research and it informs our understanding that the way HIV-related care (prevention or treatment) is delivered and the way people respond to it may differ in some ways by gender. This year’s CROI conference program guide included a seven-page index to more than 120 studies focused on women or women’s issues being presented at the conference.
Watch the video above to hear our full conversation with Dr. Brown. Catch up on all of our coverage of CROI 2018.