Percentage of Women with AIDS Increases in U.S., Minnesota
The proportion of AIDS among women, especially women of color, has more than doubled since the beginning of the epidemic. The second annual National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day will be held Saturday, March 10 to draw attention to the increasing percentage of AIDS cases among women.
While women represented only 11 percent of the AIDS cases in the U.S. in 1990, they now represent 26 percent of the new diagnoses in 2005. African American and Latina women accounted for 82 percent of the new AIDS diagnoses in 2005 among women in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Women of color now account for 81 percent of all women estimated to be living with AIDS in the country.
In Minnesota, 1,289 HIV cases have been reported among women and an estimated 1,168 are currently living with HIV in Minnesota. African American and African-born women represented 59 percent of the total number of HIV cases reported among women in 2005. Latino, American Indian and Asian women represented 10 percent of cases among women.
"The proportion of HIV cases among women has been a growing concern over the past couple of decades in Minnesota," said Peter Carr, director of the STD and HIV Section, Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). "Women represented just 2 percent of our HIV infections in 1985, 19 percent in 1995, and now 29 percent in 2005."
The theme for this year's observance is, "Taking action to save our lives". Women and girls can take action in the fight against HIV/AIDS in a variety of ways such as getting tested for HIV, avoiding high risk behaviors such as drug use and sharing needles, talking about HIV prevention with family, friends and colleagues, empowering oneself, and providing support to those living with HIV/AIDS.
"Women may not be aware of their true risk for getting infected with HIV and may not seek testing or use the proper safeguards," said Carr. "It is always very difficult to know your partner's past sexual or drug using history, particularly when you need to consider the past 10 or more years. Some are in relationships that prohibit their ability to negotiate safer sex while others still believe it's just a disease that infects white gay men and protection isn't necessary."
To help curb the epidemic in Minnesota, the STD and HIV Section at MDH currently funds 22 programs through 19 agencies aimed at preventing the spread of HIV in adults and young people of all races who inject drugs and/or engage in sexual behaviors that transmit HIV.
The Office of Minority and Multicultural Health at MDH provides capacity building funding to eight community based organizations to impart knowledge and skills that affect individual abilities and organizational systems (including community) in the fight to eradicate HIV/AIDS.
Health officials emphasize that there is no cure or vaccine against HIV infection. Latex condoms are highly effective in preventing the spread of HIV. Testing for HIV and early treatment of infected persons will help them to live longer and healthier lives. It is particularly important for pregnant women to get an HIV test to help prevent transmitting HIV to their babies.
The MDH HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report-2005, which includes data specific for women, can be found on the MDH Web site at: www.health.state.mn.us.
Information about HIV is also available from the Minnesota AIDS Project (MAP) AIDSLine, (612) 373-2437, 1-800-248-2437. MAP AIDSLine offers statewide information and referral services, including prevention education, HIV risk assessments, HIV testing and referrals to HIV testing sites, as well as community resources and prevention programs that serve women.