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30 years of promoting women's leadership in the struggle to end AIDS

Last week, I officially began my tenure as the new Director of Fundraising and Development at AIDS United. I am incredibly excited and humbled to be joining such a dynamic group of activists and leaders and am energized by the feeling that our movement – while confronted by significant hurdles, both long-standing and new – is on the cusp of something amazing: ending the HIV epidemic in America. I am also filled with a sense of urgency because I know, as most of you do, that this outcome is by no means assured.

As we commemorate National Women & Girl’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, I am heartened by our many successes. After years of seeing increasing infection rates among women of color, we have seen a 20 percent and 14 percent decline in new infections among Black and Latina women respectively between 2011 and 2015. During that same period, the number of infections among White women stable. That being said, Black women continue to be more affected than women of other races/ethnicities and we still have over a quarter of a million women living with HIV in this country, with more than 4 women dying each day from HIV disease.

Why? Because women face many unique risk factors that are often overlooked by medical and community providers, funders, and those conducting HIV research in our communities. Many women, for example, do not know or underestimate their male partners’ risk factors for HIV – i.e. injection drug use or same-sex contact with other men – and for many different reasons, are unable to take proper steps to protect themselves. Also, women who have been sexually abused or face domestic abuse or sexual coercion often lack the ability to effectively negotiate protection, such as condom use, with their partners, placing them at increased risk of infection as well.

Meanwhile, transgender women continue to be one of the most heavily impacted populations in the country. Despite very few sources of accurate data, we know that transgender women, particularly transgender women of color, face intersecting risk factors mostly related to stigma, bigotry, and transphobia that impact their ability to secure safe and affordable housing, gainful employment, and most importantly health care.

For 30 years, AIDS United, and the National AIDS Fund and AIDS Action before it, has worked to lift up the needs of women in our national response to this epidemic, and amplify the voices of female leaders, both cisgender and transgender, in critical HIV policy discussions. From Donna Crews to Marsha Martin, Christine Lubinski to Kandy Feree, some of the women that I most admire have come through the organization. Today, this tradition of strong women leaders continues, from Valerie Rochester, our VP for Program Strategy, to board members like Marjorie Hill and Naina Khanna, not to mention the more than 16 women we have currently serving on staff (half of our entire organization).

We are working every day to ensure that adequate resources are dedicated to addressing the HIV epidemic among cisgender and transgender women, including a continued emphasis on fostering female leadership from within the community and whenever possible, tapping into their power to make change on the local, regional, and national levels. I hope you will join us in supporting this work and standing for the health of America’s women and girls, this NWGHAAD, and consider donating to AIDS United’s critical work today. With 93 percent of our funding going directly to programming for the community – not to mention a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator – you can be assured that every dollar you donate will go to achieving our mission of ending the HIV epidemic in America.

Thank you for your continued support and I look forward to us working together in my new role.

Rashida Muhammad
Director of Fundraising & Development
AIDS United

Posted By: Rashida Muhammad, Director of Fundraising & Development - Saturday, March 10, 2018

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