Dawn Averitt was just 19 when she was diagnosed with HIV in 1988. Since then, she has become a respected speaker, writer, and advocate around women’s health issues and HIV. In 2002, Averitt and her brother Richard launched the Well Project, a nonprofit organization aimed at improving the lives of women living with HIV and AIDS, providing accurate and current information on women and girls and HIV, and changing the course of the pandemic through treatment and prevention efforts focused on women. The Well Project’s award-winning Web portal now attracts more than 1.3 million unique visitors each year, operating as a global hub of resources that help women and girls overcome the inequalities, barriers, and stigma that contribute to the epidemic among women.
Averitt also founded the Women’s Research Initiative on HIV/AIDS, a program of the Well Project, which has helped shift the research paradigm to include more women and people of color. In 2007 she received a Women Leading Global Change Award from the World YWCA for her leadership in the HIV and AIDS pandemic. She’s served on numerous boards and panels, including a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel, several National Institutes of Health working groups, and the Perinatal HIV Guidelines Working Group. In 2010 she was named to the Presidential Advisory Committee on HIV/AIDS.
Today, Averitt is a member of the Office of AIDS Research Advisory Council and has helped organize several important scientific conferences, such as the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections and the National Women and HIV Conference. She also makes time to serve on advisory boards for major pharmaceutical companies producing HIV medications.
Krista Martel, executive director of the Well Project, says she’s always been impressed by “Dawn’s unequivocal focus on ensuring women are included at every level of the HIV research process.” Martel says Averitt’s work has a “far-reaching impact beyond what we can measure.”