Archive for the ‘Women's Health’ Category

’Tis the season of snow, champagne, and New Year’s resolutions! AAUW will formally submit a list of 2013 policy recommendations to Congress and the president, but we wanted to give our members and supporters a more informal look at some of our goals for this year — our advocacy resolutions, if you will.

Lisa Maatz, director of public policy and government relations: I resolve to recognize 2013 as the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act and call attention all year long for the need to update this important piece of legislation. The Equal Pay Act, originally signed into law on June 10, 1963, prohibits wage discrimination on the basis of sex. Although enforcement of the Equal Pay Act as well as other civil rights laws such as Title VII has helped to narrow the wage gap, significant disparities remain that need to be addressed. The Equal Pay Act is too limited in scope, and it has several loopholes that prevent us from further closing the wage gap. We’ve come a long way in the last 50 years, but we’ve got a ways to go — and I resolve to make sure everyone knows what we need to do to get there.

Erin Prangley, associate director of public policy and government relations: I resolve to make sure AAUW priority legislation — such as the Paycheck Fairness Act, Equal Employment Opportunity Restoration Act, Safe Schools Improvement Act, Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, High School Athletics Accountability Act, and Violence Against Women Act — is reintroduced in the 113th Congress. All bills that did not pass in the 112th Congress must be reintroduced to move forward, and I resolve that AAUW will continue to lead efforts to gain co-sponsors for our priority legislation.

Anne Hedgepeth, government relations manager: I resolve to meet with the new members of the 113th Congress to introduce them to AAUW and our priority issues. We can be a great asset as they develop policy and figure out what to support over the coming two years. Plus, many of them already know about us thanks to the amazing work our branch and state organizations do locally. You can help by scheduling in-district meetings with your representatives and senators as well. E-mail us at advocacy@aauw.org if you need help scheduling or preparing for a meeting!

Beth Scott, regulatory affairs manager: I resolve to hold the Obama administration accountable to women and families by monitoring new federal regulations and making sure they reflect AAUW’s public policy positions. For example, in 2013 there should be new rules to make sure women and girls are treated fairly by insurance companies and have access to the medical care they need and deserve, such as contraception. I’ll make sure AAUW reviews those rules and works with the federal agencies to draft the most inclusive and strongest possible laws to protect our rights.

Liz Owens, political media coordinator: I resolve to make an AAUW priority issue “trend” (be one of the most popular topics) nationwide on Twitter this year and to help brand AAUW as a leading voice on our priority issues. That means engaging with top influencers, activists, journalists, and you to spread the word about our work. Get us started by following @AAUWPolicy on Twitter! And help brand topics such as #fairpay, #highered, #STEM, #TitleIX, #VAWA, #pellgrants, and #reprorights as our priority issues by adding @AAUW to your tweets.

Kimberly Fountain, state grassroots advocacy manager: I resolve to show off the public policy accomplishments of AAUW state organizations and branches. As we saw in the It’s My Vote: I Will Be Heard campaign, our state organizations and branches are full of innovative ideas, from AAUW of Colorado creating temporary tattoos for millennials to the AAUW Omaha (NE) Branch registering voters at a Zumba class. I want to share these and more exciting accomplishments through social media, our website, e-mails to AAUW members and supporters, Outlook magazine, and other outlets. You can help us by sending media coverage, photos, and stories of your branch’s events to advocacy@aauw.org.

And finally, my resolution as grassroots advocacy coordinator is to grow the AAUW Action Network by 50 percent in 2013 so that we can make our voices in Washington, D.C., even louder. AAUW Action Network, the cornerstone of AAUW’s e-advocacy efforts, e-mails notices about the latest legislation and urges subscribers to contact their members of Congress. You can help me fulfill this resolution right now by subscribing to the AAUW Action Network! Already a subscriber? Share this image with three friends, and encourage them to join you!

What’s your advocacy resolution? How will you help fulfill AAUW’s mission of advancing equity for women and girls through advocacy? Please share in the comments!

Action Network New Years

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Piggy Bank with back to school messageIn this installment of our ongoing Budget 101 blog series, we’re exploring what was in the “fiscal cliff” package passed by Congress over the New Year’s holiday. Late last night, the House of Representatives passed the Senate bill to pull us back from the fiscal cliff — the combination of tax and spending changes that were set to go into effect today and could have sent the U.S. economy back into a recession. But the deal, which President Obama is expected to sign, dealt only with the tax changes and merely delayed the spending cuts known as sequestration.

AAUW commends lawmakers from both parties for coming together to reach a true compromise (look up how your senators and representative voted). Like any compromise, the deal is far from perfect, but it includes several AAUW-supported provisions that will help women and their families, such as

  • Returning to the Clinton-era tax rates for high-income earners while continuing the current rates for individuals earning less than $400,000 and families earning less than $450,000
  • Extending the American Opportunity Tax Credit, an AAUW-supported $2,500 tax credit to help college students and their families pay for tuition and related expenses
  • Ending the payroll tax holiday and returning to the previous rate of withholding, therefore protecting Social Security’s long-term solvency
  • Extending federal unemployment insurance for another year, benefiting those unemployed for longer than 26 weeks
  • Delaying the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts for two months, giving Congress more time to find a way to protect key programs like K–12 funding, Pell Grants, and family planning from sequestration

Although the automatic spending cuts have been delayed, they are still dangerous. In the next two months, Congress will need to find a solution to avoid deep cuts to important investments such as education, funding for civil rights enforcement, women’s health programs, and workforce training programs.

obama fiscal cliffThe 113th Congress, which begins on January 3, is in for a bumpy next few months. The sequestration delay is projected to end at roughly the same time the United States hits its newly set debt limit (early March), setting the scene for a pitched political fight. This will likely be followed by another battle when the current appropriations bill that is funding the government expires in late March.

AAUW is a nonpartisan organization, but we’re also multi-partisan, representing a variety of political affiliations and viewpoints. Despite our differences, AAUW members come together to get things done and serve our communities. Congress should do the same. AAUW members will continue to press Congress to support budget policies that further the principles of fairness and fiscal responsibility and protect women and their families.

Make your voice heard! Sign up for AAUW’s Action Network and speak up for women and families.

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Piggy Bank with back to school messageWelcome back to the Budget 101 blog series, where we explore the federal budget and how it affects Americans’ lives. In this installment, we’ll look into the possible cuts to important domestic programs that would occur if we go over the “fiscal cliff.”

AAUW believes that any agreement made in Washington must take a balanced approach and not include further cuts to critical nondefense discretionary (NDD) programs that expand educational and workforce training opportunities, defend civil rights, protect women’s health, and promote gender diversity. NDD programs have already been cut to reduce the deficit, and AAUW strongly believes future cuts should come from other budget areas, such as Pentagon spending. An analysis by a nonpartisan organization found that there is no room to make additional NDD cuts “without threatening the government’s ability to provide crucial benefits and services and perform core public functions.”

If we go over the fiscal cliff and the dramatic cuts known as “sequestration” happen, women and girls will feel the impact. For example

  • K–12 funding would be reduced, meaning fewer teachers, larger class sizes, and reduced resources for school mental health counseling, anti-bullying programs, and other safety programs.
  • Higher education programs would be cut, affecting Pell Grants and student aid opportunities and limiting students’ ability to access postsecondary education. Although Pell Grants are exempt from the first round of sequestration and would therefore not face automatic cuts, the program actually needs additional funding just to continue serving current participants.
  • Women seeking workforce training would be hurt. Department of Labor programs fund the Women’s Bureau, One-Stop Career Centers, and other efforts that provide grants to help unemployed workers retrain for their industry or enter nontraditional fields. Cutting these programs means workers won’t get that training, and our economy will continue to suffer.
  • Women and girls’ civil rights protections would be in danger. The sequester would automatically cut funding for federal civil rights agencies, reducing their ability to enforce the law. An across-the-board cut would mean that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would have fewer resources to enforce fair pay protections and that the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights would have less agency to enforce Title IX’s protections against gender-based discrimination.
  • Critical civil rights data would be lost. For example, AAUW relies on the American Community Survey and other surveys for our research on the gender pay gap; women’s underrepresentation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM); and other issues that hinder gender equity and civil rights in our society. Policy makers need this information to make informed decisions.
  • Women’s health would be endangered, as funding cuts would reduce the number of women able to access the Title X Family Planning Program. This program, which was signed into law by President Nixon, provides reproductive health services to low-income women. Cutting it would make it difficult for those women to access necessary medical care.
  • Programs that promote gender diversity in STEM would be threatened. Despite substantial progress since the enactment of Title IX in 1972, women remain underrepresented in STEM careers. Cutting programs that encourage girls’ engagement would likely lead to further stagnation or even declines.

AAUW is a nonpartisan organization, but we’re also multi-partisan, representing a variety of political affiliations and viewpoints. Despite our differences, AAUW members come together to get things done and serve our communities. Congress should do the same. Decisions about our nation’s budget and deficit will only get harder if a solution is deferred. Take action and tell your representative and senators to protect these important programs!

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December 1 marks the 25th annual World Aids Day. People around the world spend the day raising awareness about HIV and AIDS through education and activism. We also show our support for people living with HIV and AIDS and commemorate those who have died. The disease affects people of all ages, ethnicities, sexes, and sexual identities in every country and is the leading cause of death globally for women of reproductive age.

Melissa Browning

Melissa Browning

AAUW is proud to have many fellows and grantees whose work focuses on HIV and AIDS prevention, education, and care. In some parts of the world, women are disproportionately affected by the disease. In sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean, for example, more than half of people living with HIV are women. According to the World Health Organization, “most people living with HIV or at risk for HIV do not have access to prevention, care, and treatment, and there is still no cure.” That is why the work done by researchers and activists is so critical. And we’re very proud of the 2012–13 AAUW fellows who are working on HIV and AIDS education and prevention.

Melissa Browning of Loyola University, Chicago, is an ordained Baptist minister who is writing about marriage, HIV, and AIDS in East Africa. She closely examines the relationship between social and religious teachings on female sexuality and abstinence and the realities women face in Africa. Browning’s research suggests that access to complete sexual health education and services would empower women and help decrease the spread of HIV and AIDS. For many women, sexual violence and power imbalances make it extremely difficult, if not dangerous, to negotiate condom use. Browning is working with churches and local groups in Tanzania to empower women and promote healthier marriages.

Eloho Tobrise, a geography doctoral student at the University of Washington, is doing

Eloho Tobrise

Eloho Tobrise

research on gender, HIV, and AIDS in rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa with particular focus on adolescent girls in secondary schools. She plans to develop an effective intervention model tailored to the unique needs of rural women in her native Nigeria.

Michelle Jimenez is a community health doctoral student at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where she is doing research on health disparities in HIV risk shaped by socioeconomic and cultural determinants among people in the Dominican Republic. She is focusing on the effect of educational differentials on gender inequalities in HIV vulnerability. According to the 2011 U.N. World AIDS Day Report, young women in the Caribbean are more likely than young men to be infected with HIV.

Michelle Jimenez

Michelle Jimenez

HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment are global issues, and today is just another part of the movement. To get more information about World AIDS Day, how you can find a local testing center, and how you can show your support, check out the resources at aids.gov.

This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Emily McGranachan.

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When the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence campaign began on November 25 — the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women — one of the first (of many) stories that astounded me concerned the pervasive and disturbing practice of securing “brides” at Syrian refugee camps in Jordan. An article in the Washington Post described how older men from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, Bahrain, and even as far as Canada are brokering marriages with vulnerable Syrian women.

“U.N. officials said that most of the marriages are brokered and that many are not consensual. The results, they said, include increasing numbers of child brides and marriages that, in some cases, end in abandonment or forced prostitution. U.N. and Jordanian relief agencies estimate that some 500 underage Syrians have been wed this year.”

This is just one of many examples of injustices against women — which are often disguised as “humanitarian” efforts in response to war — and it highlights the challenges of sexual violence after conflict.

This year’s 16 Days campaign, which is based on the theme “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence against Women,” aims to continue the work done in 2011 to challenge militarism and explore the deep socioeconomic structures that perpetuate gender-based violence. More than 4,000 organizations from 172 countries have participated in the campaign since it launched at the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers in 1991. The campaign ends on December 10 — Human Rights Day. These dates were chosen to emphasize that gender-based violence is a violation of human rights. The campaign is successful because of the activism of millions of women and tens of thousands of organizations worldwide that are committed to ending gender-based violence.

The 16 Days campaign is an opportunity to reflect on what everyone can do to hold governments accountable and challenge the structures that allow gender-based violence to continue. Participation in the campaign is a chance to join other advocates to raise awareness about gender-based violence and to add your voice to those of women in other countries and regions who refuse to be silent. Gender-based violence is an issue that impacts all of us at multiple levels, and our governments have a responsibility to respond, protect, and prevent.

AAUW joins Women and Girls LEAD in promoting Women, War, and Peace; Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide; and The Invisible War — films showcased in this year’s campaign that amplify the stories of survivors and educate the public about the factors that contribute to violence. Be part of the global movement to end gender-based violence by watching the films, sharing the facts, and taking action.

Want to stay connected and learn more? Visit Women and Girls LEAD, the official 16 Days campaign website, or post and search for events on the campaign calendar.

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Thanksgiving is a day for giving thanks. Black Friday is a day for getting deals. Why not designate a day for giving back? That’s the question that inspired Giving Tuesday, a day to launch the season of giving that comes with the holidays.

As an organization rated highly by Charity Navigator, NerdWallet, GreatNonprofits, and others, we know how important philanthropy is. In fact, we see the impact AAUW donors have every day. In honor of Giving Tuesday, we wanted to share a success story that illustrates what kind of work AAUW can do thanks to your generosity — but we couldn’t pick just one! Check out these six inspiring stories that were made possible by AAUW donors.

Want to be a part of Giving Tuesday? Donate today.

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Fellowships and Grants

Writing a dissertation and raising young daughters at the same time wasn’t easy, but the Rev. Dori Baker didn’t want to choose between a career and raising a family. Thanks to a fellowship from AAUW, she didn’t have to. “The fellowship literally paid for my child care while I wrote,” Baker says, and it gave her the time she needed to write.

Now a published author who has advanced in her career, Baker is able to mentor young adults — particularly young women — as they figure out their futures.

Today, on Giving Tuesday, support women like Baker: Donate today!


NCCWSL Scholarships    

Evelyn Garcia Morales grew up in a poverty-ridden community with drug and gang problems. She knows leadership opportunities for young people are important — that’s why she works with low-income high school students. Morales found inspiration for her work at the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders, which she was able to attend thanks to a scholarship from an AAUW branch.

“The energy in the room was so powerful — it woke me up in a way and acted as the slingshot I needed to keep me going in my new career path,” Morales says. “And I now feel so connected to this larger community of support that wants to see me develop holistically and will continue to make sure women are lifted up.”

AAUW supports women leaders from day one. Help us keep this going — support this powerful conference today!


Tech Trek Camps

Girls need more opportunities to gain confidence and skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Now,  eighth-grade girls in Ohio, Oklahoma, Florida, Texas, and Washington will get that chance thanks to a pilot program to bring Tech Trek to sites across the country. This weeklong summer camp shows girls how fun STEM can be.

If we can raise the funds to make the pilot program a success, then we can bring the camps to more states next year and open the doors to well-paid STEM careers.

Want to inspire girls to pursue STEM? Support these exciting camps today!


AAUW Research

“[AAUW’s report] blows a hole in the argument that women are paid less because they take time off to have children.”

— ThinkProgress.org

Since 1885, AAUW’s research has debunked all kinds of myths about women. Want to help? Donate today!


Campus Action Project Grants

This April, students at the University of Arizona will learn about wage discrimination from these women, who are hosting Mind the Gap Day to empower fellow students to stand for fair pay.

Financial support for Mind the Gap comes from AAUW’s Campus Action Project grants, which fund groups of students and faculty who use AAUW research and recommendations to address issues on a local level.

AAUW puts our research into practice. Help us make a difference today.


Pay Equity

When Lilly Ledbetter lost her lawsuit for equal pay, she knew she couldn’t just give up and go home.

“I had to stand up for what was right, but I wasn’t alone,” Ledbetter said. “Thanks to the hard work of AAUW and ordinary Americans who called their legislators to support pay equity legislation, we are on our way to winning the fight to close the wage gap. AAUW is a key leader of these continuing efforts.”

Help AAUW support women like Ledbetter. Donate today!

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One year after the debt ceiling crisis, Congress and the president again face a series of tough decisions regarding federal spending and deficit reduction. With so much at stake in this debate, we’re breaking down the details of the impending across-the-board cuts, also known as sequestration. This is the last post of Budget 101.

So far in the Budget 101 series, we’ve covered the current state of the federal budget, the impact of Bush-era tax policies, the payroll “tax holiday,” and the importance of unemployment insurance. In this post, we’ll discuss the sequester, what will happen if we go over the “fiscal cliff,” and what AAUW thinks elected officials should do.

Last year, as part of the agreement to raise the debt ceiling, Congress passed the Budget Control Act. There were two key aspects of this legislation. First, $917 billion had to be cut from the federal budget over the next decade. These automatic cuts have already begun with $21 billion removed from the fiscal year 2012 budget. The second part of the legislation created the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, the so-called super committee. Members of the committee, a small group of representatives and senators, were charged with producing a plan to cut at least $1.2 trillion from the deficit over the next decade. Congress gave itself an incentive to succeed — if the committee failed to produce a plan by November 23, 2011, or if Congress failed to pass one by December 23, 2011, $500 billion in automatic, across-the-board spending cuts (“sequestrations”) split between defense and non-defense spending would occur.

Congress failed in this mission, and sequestration now looms. The first cuts are expected in January 2013, and $109.3 billion in cuts will occur each year between 2013 and 2021. Social Security, Medicaid, civil and military employee pay, and veteran benefits will be exempted, and Medicare benefits will be limited to a 2 percent reduction.

While dramatically cutting the federal budget might sound appealing, it would come with real costs. One recent analysis found that implementing sequestration would mean, among many other things

  • Head Start would serve 96,179 fewer low-income children.
  • Five million fewer families would be served by the Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant, which provides funding for prenatal care; well-child services; infant mortality, injury, and violence prevention; oral healthcare; school-based health programs; and eliminating racial and ethnic disparities.
  • 1,133,981 fewer students would receive grants for career and technical education.

Another point against sequestration is that it would not actually close the deficit. Although the proposed cuts would bring defense and domestic discretionary spending levels down to historic lows as a percentage of the U.S. economy, it would do little to stabilize or end the debt.

So what should Congress do to prevent the sequester and what political analysts are calling the “fiscal cliff” — the combination of sequestration’s spending cuts and the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts, unemployment insurance extensions, and the payroll tax holiday — from wreaking havoc on  the economy in January 2013?

AAUW believes that any agreement must be balanced. We shouldn’t cut programs for the young, the old, and the vulnerable while protecting cuts to other programs. Any agreement must include additional revenues, not additional hardships.

Second, AAUW believes any agreement should create capacity, not destroy it. While some argue that Pell Grants for college students or job training for displaced workers is too expensive, think about how much human potential we would lose if we didn’t provide these opportunities. A few dollars spent today can create hundreds of dollars for our economy in the future. We shouldn’t risk our country’s capacity for greatness by cutting this funding.

Finally, AAUW strongly believes that any package must honor the commitments we’ve made to one another. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are promises that we’ve made as a society — no one should starve or die because they’re too poor or too old. It’s that simple, and Congress needs to recognize that and leave these programs alone.

These are tough budgetary times, and we face difficult decisions as a country. But this argument isn’t just about numbers — it’s about who we are and who we want to be as a country. AAUW urges our elected officials to enact a sensible, balanced proposal that allows our economy to grow and lets Americans live in dignity and prosperity.

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“Eighteen years ago today, the landmark Violence against Women Act was signed into law. It was founded on the basic premise that every woman deserves to be safe from violence, and since its passage, we have made tremendous strides towards achieving that goal. But we still have much work to do.”
— Vice President Joe Biden, who drafted the original Violence against Women Act, on September 13, 2012

“Every minute this house chooses to delay the reauthorization of VAWA is another minute these women are victimized.”
Sen. Patty Murray, September 13, 2012

“There is no good reason that we can’t work together and see that #VAWA, a life-saving law, is reauthorized immediately.”
— Sen. Patrick Leahy, September 13, 2012 (@SenatorLeahy)

AAUW couldn’t agree more. The Violence against Women Act is due for reauthorization this year, but political maneuvering has stalled the bill in Congress. AAUW has long supported “freedom from violence and fear of violence in homes, schools, workplaces, and communities.” Since its enactment in 1994, VAWA has saved lives and saved money. VAWA is credited with contributing to the dramatic increase in the reporting of domestic violence. The rate of homicide by an intimate partner has decreased by 65 percent for women and almost 50 percent for men since the statute was enacted.

AAUW is a strong supporter of the bipartisan VAWA reauthorization bill passed by the Senate. The bill takes steps to make college campuses safer for women. When campus environments are hostile because of sexual harassment, assault, or violence, students cannot learn, and they miss out on true educational opportunities. AAUW’s own research revealed that two-thirds of college students experience sexual harassment. In addition, a 2007 campus sexual assault study [BH2] by the U.S. Department of Justice found that around 28 percent of women are targets of attempted or completed sexual assault while they are college students.

While AAUW supported the Senate’s VAWA reauthorization bill, we opposed the House’s bill because it did not contain necessary provisions to improve the safety of college campuses. Additionally, the House bill expressly rejects protections for men and women who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, making it difficult for them to find services in their communities. The House bill also eliminates strong protections for women and children who are beaten or abused on tribal lands by perpetrators who are not members of a particular tribe, and it removes a key requirement that would more easily allow victims to move from one subsidized housing program to another in order to avoid an abuser.

The Violence against Women Act should not be a political pawn in election-year gamesmanship. We urge the House to follow the bipartisan lead of the Senate and AAUW’s membership: Put aside the rhetoric, move quickly to pass the Senate version, and once again do the right thing for all victims of violence.

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“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), August 19, 2012

“I would hope that when a woman goes into a physician with a rape issue, that that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage, or was it truly caused by a rape.”

— Idaho state Sen. Chuck Winder (R), March 30, 2012

Really? We’re actually still talking about a disproven theory from the Middle Ages that stated that women’s bodies could somehow magically prevent pregnancy after a rape? Despite the fact that this theory contradicts all medical knowledge and is nothing more than a bogus myth? Despite the fact that more than 5 percent of all rapes result in pregnancy? Really?

As you can tell, we’re a little worked up about this. We get worked up about attempts to demean the experiences of rape victims as well as attempts to limit women’s access to health care.

AAUW supports the right of every woman to safe, accessible, affordable, and comprehensive family planning and reproductive health services. Per our member-adopted Public Policy Program, AAUW opposes any policy that limits women’s access to abortion, especially plans that do not have accommodations for rape, incest, and the mother’s health. AAUW trusts that every woman has the ability to make her own, informed choices regarding her reproductive life within the dictates of her own moral and religious beliefs. These deeply personal decisions should be made without governmental interference or judgment.

Quotes like Akin’s and Winder’s are also why AAUW supports comprehensive sex education curricula in our nation’s schools. People’s knowledge of women’s bodies should come from biology class, not history class.

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“If women could bring life to this world, we could bring life to this fight!”
— Sheryl Lee Ralph, former star of the Broadway musical Dreamgirls

The impact of HIV and AIDS on women and girls — a serious yet often ignored issue — was a central focus of the 19th International AIDS Conference that was held in July in Washington, D.C. Speakers like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former first lady Laura Bush, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and actress Whoopi Goldberg demanded an increase in awareness, education, and care for women and girls living with the disease both domestically and abroad. The theme of the conference was an AIDS-free generation, and speakers argued that the health of a nation begins with the health of its mothers.

Sheryl Lee Ralph spoke at the 19th International AIDS conference.

When HIV was first discovered, many believed that it primarily affected men — especially gay men — and people who live outside the United States. However, the impact of HIV and AIDS on women in America and abroad is disturbingly and uniquely severe. On average, a U.S. woman tests positive for HIV every 47 minutes, and the disease disproportionately affects black and Latina women. Globally, HIV is the leading cause of death for women ages 15–49, and young women are twice as likely as men to contract the disease. At the conference, Clinton spoke about how gender inequalities work with the disease to greatly diminish women’s reproductive choices. She revealed that the United States will invest an additional $80 million in health care and reproductive care programs that help women who have tested positive for HIV.

Comprehensive sex education could help prevent the spread of this disease. Additionally, gender-based violence puts women at a higher risk for contracting sexually transmitted diseases like HIV — victims of abuse and young women are less able and more afraid to demand safe-sex practices. To combat the spread of HIV domestically, we must work to spread awareness and education about the importance of prevention and testing. Comprehensive sex-education programs are vital to inform women and girls about prevention and protection from all sexually transmitted diseases. We must continue to strive for greater research and access to protective contraception like antiretroviral therapy technology, female condoms, and microbicide gels to prevent infection.

AAUW works diligently to protect every woman’s right to safe, accessible family planning and reproductive health services. As an organization that is dedicated to advancing equity through education, we fight for comprehensive education programs that recognize the needs and realities faced by young women. AAUW’s continued fight for these basic rights will help protect women’s physical and emotional well-being by destroying social barriers that put women at great risk for sexually transmitted diseases like HIV and AIDS. As Nobel laureate Françoise Barré-Sinoussi said at the AIDS conference, “Combating harmful social norms, promoting gender equality, and empowering women is essential to boost HIV response in women and girls.”

This post was written by AAUW Public Policy Intern Laura Dietrich.

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