Everyone is at risk for HIV and AIDS, and women make up around 25 percent of the people diagnosed in the U.S. with HIV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
An international HIV and AIDS charity called AVERT states on its website that “at the end of 2009 it was estimated that out of the 33.3 million adults worldwide living with HIV and AIDS, slightly more than half are women. The AIDS epidemic has had a unique impact on women, which has been exacerbated by their role within society and their biological vulnerability to HIV infection.”
Unfortunately for women, vaginal sex can be more dangerous in regards to getting HIV than it is for men. One reason for this is that the vagina has a larger area which is potentially exposed to semen infected with HIV, in comparison to the penis, according to the website for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health.
Women have to keep in mind how they are more at risk in some cases than men for HIV, and for women who already have HIV, the condition can be challenging.
“Women are mothers, caretakers, spouses, employees, friends, and neighbors — often all at once,” according to the website. “Living with HIV as a woman often means dealing with the disease while still fulfilling these other roles. And, HIV introduces many new issues for women to manage.”
Besides regular life challenges and struggles associated with the physical aspects of HIV, there are mental health issues to deal with for women as well.
Dr. Soroya Bacchus, a psychiatrist, said in an email that when women are diagnosed with HIV, and it can be shocking, thus affecting their mental health as well.
“The changes to their everyday lives can be overwhelming,” Bacchus said. “Oftentimes, feelings of helplessness, sadness, and fear can be all-encompassing … Denial many times accompanies such a condition as well, and without a proper channel to process these feelings they can become exponentially worse as more time passes.”
Here are some coping tips from Bacchus for women who are living with HIV, AIDS and/or a mental health condition as well: