Women Increasingly Bearing the Burden of HIV/AIDS, Study Finds
Women comprise an increasing proportion of new HIV infections and AIDS cases, and women of color are "hardest hit" by the epidemic, a new report by the Kaiser Family Foundation on women and HIV/AIDS states. The report, titled "Key Facts: Women and HIV/AIDS," was presented Wednesday at a briefing with members of Congress and representatives from AIDS groups. The report reveals that women currently comprise 25% of the total HIV/AIDS cases in the United States; in 1999, they accounted for 23% of the nation's new AIDS cases. The number of new AIDS cases among women has tripled since 1986, when only 7% of new cases were among women. Women also accounted for 20% of the nation's total AIDS cases in 1998. In addition, although African-American women account for only 13% of U.S. females over 13 years of age, they account 63% of the AIDS cases among women in that age group. Other findings outlined in the report include:
- Between 1993 and 1998, AIDS-related deaths declined among men and women, but the death rate among women was "considerably slower" than that among men. AIDS-related deaths among men decreased by 64% during that time period, while death rates for women dropped by 35%.
- Although HIV was the fifth leading cause of death for all women between the ages of 25 and 44, it was the third highest cause of death for African-American women and the fourth leading cause of death for Latina women in that age bracket. HIV was the 10th highest cause of death among white women in that age group.
- Among women 13 years of age and older, the AIDS case rate is significantly higher among African-American women than among women in other races. In 1999, African-American women experienced 49 AIDS cases per 100,000 women, compared to the overall rate of 9.3 for all women. White women reported 2.3 AIDS cases per 100,000 women, while Latina women had 14.9 cases per 100,000.
- Women now constitute the majority of AIDS cases among teens. In 1998, women accounted for 58% of AIDS cases among individuals ages 13 to 19.
- The majority of women (61%) ages 13 years and older contracted HIV through heterosexual sex, while 36% reported contracting the virus through IV drug use; among women with AIDS ages 13 to 24, 76% reported heterosexual contact as the method of contraction.
- In 1999, 68% of new AIDS cases among women occurred among those 30 to 49 years old; 18% were among women 20 to 29 years; and 12% occurred among women over 50 years of age.
- One-half of women with HIV/AIDS receiving care are covered by Medicaid, compared to 23% of men. Women with HIV/AIDS are also less than half as likely to be privately insured as men.
- Fifty-one percent of women with HIV/AIDS receiving care said they had not received combination antiretroviral therapy in the past year, compared to 39% of men.
Call to Action
At the Wednesday Capitol Hill briefing, members of Congress and others outlined courses of action needed to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS among women. Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-Calif.), co-vice chair of the Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues, said that more prevention and outreach efforts are needed and emphasized the importance of reaching younger women and girls in schools. Marie Saint Cyr, executive director of Iris House, a home for women with HIV/AIDS and their families, added that AIDS among older women is also a concern, as more women over 50 are contracting the disease. Saint Cyr said that prevention and outreach efforts often "miss" older women because people believe these women are not sexually active or at risk for HIV. She added that older women often "have the hardest time coping" with HIV and more targeted support systems and counseling for to this age group are needed. Rep. Connie Morella (R-Md.) added that research should work on developing new initiatives, such as microbicides, that would help women prevent HIV transmission. Calling microbicides the "key to assisting women throughout the world to prevent HIV/AIDS as well as sexually transmitted diseases," Morella said that unlike condoms, microbicides allow women to control how they protect themselves against HIV. She added that she plans to introduce legislation that would increase CDC and NIH funding for microbicide research by $45 million to $75 million (Meredith McGroarty, Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/4). To view the Kaiser Healthcast of the Capitol Hill briefing, click here. Please note: You must have RealPlayer to view this Webcast.