Too many women also find it tough to get an HIV test, even when they ask for it. According to Mahon, "many women have told us, 'I go out and ask my doctor for a test and they say, well, what have you been up to?'"
The solution, according to the experts, is easy: Make the HIV test a routine part of a woman's medical care.
"A lot of women who aren't sure if they've been tested for HIV or maybe are complacent about it have been seeing health providers, getting reproductive health care, getting Pap smears, etc.," Hader noted. "So, if they haven't been offered an HIV test every time they have come in for a routine health exam, then it is like the medical community has said, 'This isn't important to you.'"
Instead, doctors should, "offer [the test] as a 'no big deal' part of every exam," Mahon reasoned. Otherwise, "it becomes this big stigma point to ask for it."
Changes like that will take time. In the interim, efforts like the MAC AIDS Fund's campaign aim to chip away at stereotypes and complacency. As part of the campaign, Lauper and Lady Gaga have each lent their names to a shade of VIVA GLAM lipstick, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the MAC AIDS Fund.
As Lady Gaga noted, women need only take a few simple steps to shield themselves from HIV.
"Use protection, and be selective and strong about those you love," she said. "Your body is sacred, and it's OK to say no. Make your partners get tested, go together: it will only make your relationship stronger and healthier."
Lauper agreed. "Be smart, be careful, protect yourself," she said in a statement. "And look out for your sisters to make sure they are doing the same."
Find out more about women and HIV/AIDS at the U.S. Cente
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