By Carol A. Poore
President & CEO, Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS
Thirty years after AIDS was discovered, there still is plenty of stigma to go around. As a major public health issue, a growing number of women, youth, and senior citizens, are being diagnosed each week across the United States, as well as a growing number of teen boys and young men. Each month on the average, Southwest Center diagnoses 10 people as HIV-positive, and two of these typically are youth.
Today, in the U.S., approximately 70 percent of those impacted by HIV/AIDS are men, 30 percent are women and youth. In 1990, women accounted for about 11 percent of all new reported AIDS cases. Today, more than 26 percent of all new cases of HIV/AIDS are women, and most are infected through sex with men or injection drug use. Women of color are especially affected by HIV/AIDS. Last year, HIV/AIDS was the third leading cause of death for black women aged 25-44 and the fourth leading cause of death for Hispanic women aged 35-44.
Across the world, more than 65 percent of those infected by the disease are women. As women, we must open our eyes and empower ourselves to learn about HIV/AIDS so that we can protect ourselves, our daughters, and our grand daughters.
Many women report domestic violence associated with their disease and are being forced to have sex with someone who is HIV-positive. Sometimes, the male partner was incarcerated in prison and returned home and, unbeknownst to the wife, transmits the disease. Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS plans to participate in studies to investigate how intimate sexual partner violence is a risk factor for women.
This trend of heterosexual transmission often connected with domestic violence and abuse is being repeated across the globe. For example, in India, the overwhelming majority of infections occur through heterosexual sex, with women now accounting for approximately 40 percent of adult infections according to UNAIDS. In many cases, married men have acted as bridge populations between vulnerable populations and general populations. Women who believe they are in monogamous relationships are becoming infected because their husbands have had multiple sexual partners. Often social norms restrict women from making decisions about their sexual relations, contributing to their vulnerability to HIV.
As you read the data below*, please join me in becoming a bold advocate for health – and for healthy relationships. Take charge of your own sexual health by becoming informed, and by not being afraid to take on public health crises such as HIV/AIDS. For the sake of your children and the people you love – move beyond the stigma and be empowered to discuss healthy lifestyles and prevention!
- Globally, more than 25 million people have died of AIDS since 1981.
- Africa has over 14 million AIDS orphans.
- At the end of 2008, women accounted for 50 percent of all adults living with HIV worldwide
- In developing and transitional countries, 9.5 million people are in immediate need of life-saving AIDS drugs; of these, only 4 million (42 percent) are receiving the drugs.
- The number of people living with HIV has risen from around 8 million in 1990 to 33 million today, and is still growing. Around 67 percent of people living with HIV are in sub-Saharan Africa.
- Two million deaths from AIDS occurred across the globe in 2008, despite recent improvements in access to antiretroviral treatment.
*Source: http://www.avert.org/worldstats.htm, 2010