12. HIV Prevention = Girl Power!

EGPAF Ambassador and HIV/AIDS advocate Cristina Peña.

Greg Cowley Photography/EGPAF

HIV is all my body knows. My family learned we had HIV in 1986 when I was just two years old. My mother had unknowingly passed the virus to me when she was pregnant and I was born HIV-positive. Days before my third birthday, my father succumbed to AIDS-related illness. When I was nine years old, my mom worked up the courage to tell me we were living with HIV and explain our illness.

My mom attributes my good health to Elizabeth Glaser’s crusade for pediatric AIDS attention and medications. If it weren’t for Elizabeth's passion and advocacy for children, I wouldn’t be alive today.

I am one of the fortunate ones. Many girls and women around the world still don’t have access to the kind of health care and education that I had growing up and we have in the United States today. Globally, about 380,000 young women and girls are newly infected with HIV each year.

This is a tragic, unacceptable outcome in an age when we know how to prevent HIV transmission. We can do better — we must do better.

Knowledge Empowers

Education is so important. Education about HIV prevention and health care, specifically, AND education in general.

Educated girls and young women — regardless of HIV status — are more likely to know how HIV is transmitted, to delay sexual activity, and to advocate for their health needs and rights. A girl’s chance of contracting HIV decreases by 6.7% for each additional year of education she receives. That gives girls and women the chance to raise healthy families, gain financial independence, and follow their dreams.

Living with HIV has taught me balance. It is the balance between education and HIV awareness that will help protect the health of girls and women. Healthy, well-educated girls and women provide countless benefits to their communities, and play an integral role in breaking the cycle of HIV/AIDS.

Protecting and promoting the health, wellbeing, and empowerment of girls and young women around the world will be our generation’s lasting legacy.

An AIDS-free generation is no longer just a dream; together we can — and will — make it a reality. Help EGPAF end AIDS in children and keep girls and women healthy.

A version of this blog originally appeared as part of ONE Girls and Women (RED) month in honor of World AIDS Day.


Because an AIDS-free generation is not just a dream, from November 24 through December 26, we are highlighting 25 ways that EGPAF, our partners, and every-day people are helping and/or can help make it a reality. Pediatric HIV/AIDS is solvable, but we can't do it alone. Each and every one of us has an important role to play.