Boston Globe Examines Barriers to Care That HIV-Positive Massachusetts Women Face
As more Massachusetts women are being diagnosed with HIV, state officials are attempting to adjust state HIV/AIDS programs to meet the needs of women, the Boston Globe reports. Women account for 30% of the state's reported HIV cases, up 10% from 1992, according to the state Department of Public Health. Women, who are often caregivers for children, elderly parents or sick partners, present "a whole range" of different problems regarding HIV/AIDS treatment, according to the Globe. Dr. Jean Flatley McGuire, director of the state HIV/AIDS Bureau, said that women are more likely than men to have family obligations that interfere with their own treatment or care, adding that, according to statistics, women are also more likely than men to miss doctor's appointments and are more likely to be hospitalized as a result of not taking medication consistently. "Taking care of yourself with this disease is a hard enough thing to do, with all the treatments, appointments and side effects," Flatley McGuire said, adding that women "tend to prioritize their children and other family members over their own care." In addition, HIV/AIDS treatments tend to present more side effects and medical problems for women than for men, primarily because the treatments were "designed for and tested on" men, the Globe reports. According to Catherine Gaynes, an HIV-positive Massachusetts woman, little research has been done on female-specific side effects of HIV/AIDS medications, such as recurrent yeast infections and cervical dysplasia. In addition, lipodystrophy, a condition sometimes caused by HIV/AIDS treatments in which fat redistributes improperly in the body, often has a greater psychological impact on female patients than on men. "Women tend to be more body conscious than men. ... Some women with HIV stop taking effective medication because they really don't like what it does to their bodies," Sandra McLaughlin, an HIV clinical social worker at Massachusetts General Hospital, said. According to the Globe, Massachusetts offers only a "handful" of HIV/AIDS programs specifically targeted at women (Ramshaw, Boston Globe, 9/2).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.