Women Represent Half of HIV-Positive People Worldwide; Disease Spreading Fastest Among Women, Review Says
Women represent about half of all HIV/AIDS cases worldwide, and the virus is spreading fastest among female populations, especially in developing countries, according to an article published in the June 10 issue of the magazine Science, the New York Daily News reports (Shin, New York Daily News, 6/10). Approximately 60% of HIV cases in sub-Saharan Africa are among women, and 75% of the HIV-positive people between the ages of 15 and 24 in the region are female. In addition, women represent half of all HIV/AIDS cases in the Caribbean and one-third of all cases in Latin America. Poverty, gender disparities, domestic violence, lack of education, and cultural and sexual norms contribute to women's increased vulnerability to HIV, and women also are more biologically vulnerable to HIV infection (Quinn/Overbaugh, Science, 6/10). In the United States, the number of AIDS cases among women increased by 15% between 1999 and 2003, compared with a 1% increase among men (King, Seattle Times, 6/12). In addition, women represent a growing percentage of new HIV cases in the United States. "This is going to continue on the same trend until we get much more targeted prevention to women," Thomas Quinn, an author of the article and a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said. Four out of five HIV-positive U.S. women are infected through heterosexual sexual activity, with the remainder contracting the virus through contaminated needles (New York Daily News, 6/10). The researchers called for prevention efforts targeting women, the Scotsman reports. "Societal changes will help over the long run, but immediate and faster action requires coordinated efforts to focus on women, develop effective microbicides that women can use themselves and a gender-specific vaccine program that takes into account the different immune responses between women and men," Quinn said (von Radowitz, Scotsman, 6/12).
NPR's "Talk of the Nation/Science Friday" included a discussion of the differences in disease rates between men and women and diseases -- including HIV/AIDS -- that disproportionately affect women. Guests on the program included Judith Auerbach, vice president for public policy and program development at the American Foundation for AIDS Research (Flatow, "Talk of the Nation/Science Friday, NPR, 6/10). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.