Today marks National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in the United States. It is sponsored by the National Minority AIDS Council in Washington. The occasion is geared toraising awareness of the increasing impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls and to encouraging them to protect themselves from the disease.

English to Africa reporter Kim Lewis spoke with Ravinia Hayes-Cozier, director of government relations and public policy of the National Minority AIDS Council. She said the focus of the day "is to bring attention to the [rising number of women who have] HIV/AIDS. In the past years, particularly at the beginning of the epidemic, it was perceived as a male disease, primarily a gay, white disease." But now, she said, they're trying to bring attention to the fact that it also strikes women in the United States, including minority women.

The National Minority AIDS Council says HIV/AIDS is one of the leading causes of death among African American and Latino women in the United States and is the number cause of death among black women aged 25-34. Hayes-Cozier says one reason for this is ignorance. "The women don't know they are involved with someone who might possibly infect them?." Also, she said, "they are less likely to be tested to know their own HIV positivity."

Hayes-Cozier says these women are mostly heads of households. They are in relationships with men [whose HIV status] they they don't know?and in some places, such as in the south, where poverty is so high, more women are with more than one man and men are with more than one woman, and it could be simply for economic reasons.