The following post is for mature audiences only. I advise 18 and older.
I saw an advertisement on TV featuring Alicia Keys, and took from it that there was a campaign called, "Empowered" and that it had to do with the fact that 1 in 4 people who are diagnosed with HIV in the US are women. It took me a few days to look it up, but I finally did. I had failed to hear any clear call to action given in the ad, and I wanted to know where they were going with it.
On the Empowered campaign's Web site, I found this more specific actions the campaign promotes. "As mothers, daughters, sisters, friends, partners and people living with HIV, we have the power to change the course of this disease through our actions." http://greaterthan.org/campaign/empowered/
The steps suggested are:
1. Know 2. Talk 3. Protect 4. Test 5. Treat
The site has stories from women who live with HIV, and their photos, so you can see real people. I feel like these things would be encouraging to women who find themselves in the same situation. But in order to have an effective campaign, fewer people would need the last step over time.
To create "an AIDS free generation," as the site hopes for, the change is going to have to be more drastic than just not passing the disease from mother to child, of course. There needs to be changes in the way people think about women... and how women think of themselves. It has to be a change in the way people think about men, and how women and men relate to each other.
If you're going to be careless enough about your heart to have multiple sexual partners who also have multiple sexual partners... how likely are you to be careful enough to always use a condom? If you meet someone spontaneously at a bar, are you going to go get tested before you go to their place for the night? I think not... the whole lifestyle of a person who is a likely candidate for contracting HIV contributes to the situations they encounter.
One morning I was sitting eating breakfast at my college. A group of four girls sat nearby, all freshman. The conversation was about the night before. Apparently, one girl had an "unexpected" encounter with one guy, and, while he was in the shower, also gave herself to another guy who appeared in the room. And this is ok!? No!
I know this may be an extreme, but the many choices and attitudes that led up to this group of girls talking like this was a normal occurrence, or somehow acceptable, were likely multiple small choices. It can start with feeling rejected by a father figure, used by a childhood acquaintance, or just being enthralled by images in a magazine. But slowly a girl's perception is formed, of herself, of women, in general, of men, and of their expectations of her. Having experiences with multiple sexual partners is suddenly normal, and becoming one with just one person becomes something that is completely unfamiliar.
I also found a Huffington Post article that looks at the AIDS picture outside of America (some Americans need to remember, the world is so much bigger than just the USA!). http://www.huffingtonpost.com/racheal-yeager/womens-empowerment-and-hi_b_1124029.html
"Violence or fear of violence can reduce women's ability to request safe sex or HIV testing." Some women are faithful to their husbands, who may travel around to look for work, and who may then choose to be unfaithful. They sleep with a person who has contracted HIV, come back home eventually, and sleep with their wives... their husband dies, and even if the wife thinks it was HIV, she may not even dare to be tested, in case her husband's brother would not take her. She could lose anything she has if she tests positive, and that fear, or other fear, may hold her back. If she is taken, and sleeps with her husband's brother, she may infect him, any children they have... the cycle goes on.
Women in the USA have no excuse to get tested; there are more programs, opportunities, and more help here than the women in Africa and elsewhere have access to. The fear of having everything taken away just because of an HIV diagnosis isn't applicable here. It seems to me that women of America don't need to be empowered; they need to realize the power, freedom, and opportunities they already have (and often neglect). They need to take educating themselves and others more seriously, yes. But they have to be willing to do something about their knowledge, and have common sense and take responsibility for their choices and lives.
The biggest trap women of America are under, in my opinion, is the "I have to have a man to be someone / I have to be in a relationship to be whole" mentality that starts at gradeschool and seems to never stop. So, yes, be empowered to be truly independent (and not for just 2 days after your latest break up). Wait for a guy who'll wait (who's been waiting) for you. I didn't have to ask my man who'd he been with - and he didn't have to ask me. Yes, we do exist. No, I wasn't waiting to complete my education, start my career, do big things in my community and ministry, etc. while I was single. And I didn't give myself to him until our wedding night. Women, we say we're equal to men in this country - yet women put themselves down every time they act like they are just at a man's disposal. "Prove you really love me" should be a diamond ring on your finger, ladies, not a piece of plastic over his privates.