Fact Sheet 610

Women and HIV


HOW SERIOUS IS HIV FOR WOMEN?
WHAT DO WOMEN NEED TO KNOW?
WHAT DO RESEARCHERS NEED TO KNOW?
TREATMENT FOR WOMEN
THE BOTTOM LINE
 


HOW SERIOUS IS HIV FOR WOMEN?

Only 7% of AIDS cases reported in 1985 in the US were women and girls. That percentage grew to 27% in 2007 and. appears stable through 2012. About 80% of women are infected through sex with an HIV-infected man (often an injection drug user), and many through drug use (see Fact Sheet 154 on Drug Use and HIV).

In the US, AIDS rates among women are highest in the Southeast and the Northeast. In 2005, about 64% of infected women in the US are were Black, although only 12% of the female US population is Black. The impact of HIV is especially great among young women of color. More than one third of new HIV infections among blacks and Latinas were in women ages 13 to 29.

 


 WHAT DO WOMEN NEED TO KNOW?

 


RESEARCH ON WOMEN

In 1997 the FDA said that women could no longer be kept out of clinical trials just because they might become pregnant. The proportion of women in AIDS research studies is increasing but is still quite low.

More studies of women with HIV are underway. Researchers are trying to enroll more women into their clinical trials. This is necessary because women have been under-represented in most medical research, not just on AIDS. Most medications have never been specifically tested in women.

A recent study found a higher risk of death among HIV+ women due to accident or injury with a lower T-cell count, who were unemployed, who had more than 8 alcoholic drinks each week, who showed signs of depression, who used injection drugs, or who had 3-5 sex partners.

 


 TREATMENT FOR WOMEN

In the US, fewer women than men are getting HIV treatment. This may be partly due to suspicion about the health care system and discrimination against people with HIV. Whenever possible, women with HIV should be cared for by experienced health care providers.


THE BOTTOM LINE

More women are becoming infected with HIV. With early testing and treatment, women with HIV can live as long as men. Women should get tested for HIV. This is especially true for pregnant women and women considering pregnancy. If they test positive for HIV, they can take steps to reduce the risk of infecting their babies and ensure their own health.

The best way to prevent infection in heterosexual sex is by using condoms. Other birth control methods do not protect against HIV. PrEP medication can further reduce the risk of HIV in women at risk of HIV infection. Women who use intravenous drugs should not share equipment.

Women planning pregnancy should seek care prior to becoming pregnant to ensure good health and assess their HIV status. See fact sheet 611 on pregnancy and HIV.

 


 


Back to Fact Sheet Categories