Courage and Commitment: Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

By Chelsea Bailey | March 10, 2014

Health counselor Bommu Anitha (center) smiles with clients during a home visit.

Ann Summa/India

In many countries women face legal, social, and economic hurdles that affect their ability to take ownership of their health and protect themselves from HIV. 

But despite these challenges, women around the world are uniting to help shift gender imbalance in the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Women like Bomme Anitha, an HIV-positive health counselor in India who uses her own personal experiences with HIV to convince her peers that it is not only possible to remain healthy--but to thrive--despite the disease.

In India, suicide rates have spiked among people living with HIV as they search desperately for a way to escape the social stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV.

Anitha admits she also considered suicide when she first learned about her status. “I was very afraid when I came to know about my status, but the people at the government center gave me counseling and supported me,” she says. “Because of them, I’m still alive. And I’m happy about that.”  

And now, she pays it forward, sharing her status and her story with other women. One woman in particular credits Anitha with saving not only her life, but the life of her child as well.

“I came to know about my status in the fifth month of my pregnancy when I came for an antenatal check-up,” she says. “When[Anitha] disclosed my status to me, I left the reports behind; I just got up and left, thinking I would commit suicide.”

Concerned by the woman’s reaction, Anitha used hospital records to find the woman’s address and paid a visit to her in person.

“The counselor visited and everything changed. She said to me: ‘I am living with HIV. Why don’t  you also?’”

“She told me: ‘Don’t worry. We will give you all the information about the services available. She also told me about the medicine which will protect the baby from HIV. She said, ‘I assure you that you will have a negative baby. I will do everything to help.”

And she did.

Around the world, women like Anitha play a key role in making a difference in the fight against HIV. Empowering women to take ownership of their health and the health of their children has a ripple effect of empowerment throughout a community.

This National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (March 10), join the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) in honoring Anitha and other courageous and committed women around the world who are standing up and speaking out about HIV/AIDS.

Learn more about how you can help women around the world gain access to critical HIV/AIDS care and treatment.