March 6, 2012
HIV-AIDS: A Growing Epidemic Among Women
Senator Lena C. Taylor
As other diseases and global crises have come into the spotlight, HIV-AIDS has taken a back seat. The center for disease control estimates that 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV infection and 20% of these people are unaware of their infection. The CDC's director, Dr. Tom Frieden stated "Thirty years later, the sense of crisis has waned, but our resolve to end the epidemic simply cannot" (Womensenews.org). Another aspect of HIV that is being ignored is its incredible impact on women, especially among minorities.
Women accounted for 23% of estimated new HIV infections in 2009 and 25% of those living with HIV infection in 2008 (Center for Disease Control). Most people associate the disease with the male homosexual population, but in fact women are the fastest growing group of people infected with HIV. In addition to the growing rate of women who are infected with HIV, women are also facing additional health complications from the disease that do not exist in men. Women are reported to experience a higher rate of liver problems, pneumonia, rashes, and yeast infections. Another main concern among women living with the disease is the likelihood that they will pass it on to their child if they become pregnant after they contract the disease. Pregnant women with HIV must be rigorous in taking antiretroviral drugs and checking in with their doctor to make sure no problems are occurring. For women without adequate access to medical care they may not be able to take the preemptive steps to protect their child.
Women of color are at an especially high risk of HIV due to many societal disparities they face. African American and Hispanic women often have lower incomes than that of white women and tend to have less access to adequate health insurance. African American women are 15 times more likely to contract the disease than white women and in fact HIV has become such an epidemic among African American women, that HIV is now the leading cause of death among African American women in the 25-34 age bracket (Womensenew.org).
Despite the statistics that show HIV and AIDS is running rampant among the female population, women only account for 17 percent of HIV-AIDS research subjects. HIV is a global epidemic that is increasingly infecting women here in the United States. We must put this issue front and center again in order to continue the fight to one day find a cure for this horrible disease.