Women At Risk

It All Began in 1981

In the early stages of the epidemic that has swept the world since 1981, relatively few women were diagnosed with HIV infection and AIDS, even though there were many drug users and infected women who were unaware of their condition. Today, more than 25 percent of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses are women, especially women of color. According to the Center for Disease Control, data from the 2005 census in the US show that together, black and Hispanic women represented 24 percent of all US women. However, women in these two groups accounted for 82 percent of the estimated total of AIDS diagnoses for women in 2005. The numbers are startling, to say the least.

Young Women Between 15-39 Are Most At Risk

There are certain factors that constitute risks for women when it comes to contracting HIV. The female group most highly affected among all races and ethnicities is young women between the ages of 15-39. The number of HIV/AIDS diagnoses for white, black and Hispanic women in this age group has decreased somewhat since 2001, while diagnoses for Asian and Pacific Islander women has increased over the same period.

Ignorance Is Not Bliss

When a woman does not know the risk factors of HIV infection for her male partner, she is highly vulnerable. Men, who have unprotected sex with multiple partners, have sex with men or use injection drugs, have increased risk of HIV. Men who practice sex with both men and women can become infected and then transfer the infection to their female partner. Women who have sex only with women and who have no other risk factors and are not using injection drugs tend to be at very low risk.

Most women are infected with HIV through heterosexual relationships with high-risk partners. Black and Hispanic women accounted for 81 percent of women living with HIV/AIDS in the US in 2005. There are several possible reasons for this, including not perceiving the gravity of the risk, drug and/or alcohol use, different ideas about what constitutes safe sex, or lack of proper education regarding safe sex. The fear of being abused or left by her partner sometimes also stops a woman from insisting on the use of condoms when having sex.

STDs, Drugs And Poverty Head The List Of Risk Factors For HIV

Women contract infection through vaginal intercourse much faster than men do. The presence of STDs increases the chances for contracting or transmitting HIV. Black and Hispanic women have the highest rates of gonorrhea and syphilis and young women between the ages of 15-24 years have the highest rates within this group. Injection drug use accounts for one out of every five new HIV diagnoses for women. Women who use hard drugs like crack cocaine or other types of non-injection drugs may be at higher risk if they are involved in selling or trading sex for drugs. High-risk behaviors often accompany both casual and chronic users.

The affect of poverty and the socioeconomic problems that are associated with it are risk factors for many women. Limited access to high-quality health care; sex trade and exchange of sex for drugs or money; and high levels of substance use and abuse can be risk factors.

All rates and risk factors, including race and ethnicity, must be considered when determining prevention programs. HIV is treatable. AIDS is fatal.


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