Teenage Girls Increasingly Infected with HIV Through Heterosexual Contact, IV Drug Use
The rate of HIV infection from heterosexual contact among girls born between 1975 and 1979 increased 117% between 1994 and 1998, with the rate of infection due to intravenous drug use rising 90% among the same age group over the same time period, researchers from the CDC Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention report in the summer edition of the Journal of the American Medical Women's Association. "As the youngest cohort of women reached the age where risk behaviors are initiated ... overall HIV diagnosis rates increased by risk, region and race, signaling the need for intensive, focused HIV prevention efforts among young women," Drs. Lisa Lee and Patricia Fleming said. The researchers used reported data for newly diagnosed HIV cases from 25 states with confidential HIV testing to examine possible trends among women born between 1950 and 1979. Overall, new HIV cases declined "slightly" among women of reproductive age, rising by 4% from 1994 to 1995, then declining by 12% from 1995 to 1998, when the study concluded. HIV infections due to heterosexual contact remained "stable" among older women, but IV drug use-related cases among older women declined by almost half from 1994 to 1998. By region, new HIV diagnoses declined by 44.2% in the Northeast and 5.5% in the West, but rose by 17.5% in the Central states and 4.5% in the South. The overall data "strongly suggest" that young, black women in the South "continue to be at highest risk for heterosexual-contact-related HIV infection," the authors said, noting that the study found "large racial/ethnic disparities" in HIV infection risk. "Increasing correct, consistent condom use among sexually active men and women is important, and female-controlled methods should continue to be explored," Lee and Fleming said, adding that with the "availability" of AIDS drugs, early testing and treatment is "critical" for the survival of HIV-positive people (Lee/Fleming, JAMWA, Summer 2001). In an accompanying "clinical applications" piece, Dr. Ellie Schoenbaum, director of the AIDS Research Program at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, N.Y., states that Lee and Fleming's findings "sugges[t] that now, even in areas not previously identified as HIV epicenters, discussions about HIV and methods to prevent transmission need to find their way into the routine care we provide." She states that it is "fundamental" that doctors seeing adolescent patients "tal[k] to them about their behaviors and concerns," adding that the "real threat" of HIV must be "incorporated" into prevention efforts (Schoenbaum, JAMWA, Summer 2001).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.