State of the HIV/AIDs epidemic

July 28, 2011

Worldwide, the World Health Organization estimates that the number of people living with HIV/AIDS is rapidly approaching 50 million, of whom almost 50% are women. In several regions of the world, the proportion of women exceeds 50%. The United Nations AIDS (UNAIDS) program estimates that 5 million new HIV infections occurred in 2001, or approximately 14,000 new cases per day. An estimated 3 million adults and children died of HIV/AIDS in 2001.

In the United States, the CDC estimates that approximately 800,000-900,000 people are living with HIV or AIDS, of whom 30% are women. Approximately 40,000 new HIV infections occur in the United States every year. Of the 240,000-270,000 women living with HIV disease in the United States, more than one half do not know their serostatus, meaning whether they are HIV-positive or HIV-negative, or that of their partner. Many will not be tested for HIV until they seek prenatal care, give birth, develop an AIDS-related illness, or until their partner develops an AIDS-related illness.

Through December 2001, 816,149 U.S. cases of AIDS had been reported to the CDC. Since 1985, the proportion of all AIDS cases reported each year among adult and adolescent women has more than tripled, from 7% in 1985 to 26% in 2001. The epidemic has continued to increase most dramatically among women of color. African American and Hispanic women together represent less than one fourth of all U.S. women, yet account for more than three fourths (78%) of AIDS cases reported to date among women. In 2001 alone, African American and Hispanic women represented an even greater proportion (80%) of cases reported in women.

During the mid-to-late 1990s, advances in HIV treatment led to dramatic declines in AIDS deaths and slowed the progression from HIV to AIDS in the United States. As a result, more people are now living with AIDS in the United States than ever before. This growing population represents an increasing need for continued HIV prevention, care, and treatment services. Even as HIV/AIDS-related deaths among women continued to decrease in 1999, largely as a result of recent advances in HIV treatment, HIV/AIDS was the fifth leading cause of death among U.S. women aged 25-44, and the third leading cause of death among African American women in this same age group. HIV/AIDS-related deaths among women of color also have declined less rapidly than their white/Caucasian counterparts.

Despite the dramatic advances made in understanding the natural history of HIV disease and the development of effective antiretroviral therapies, the AIDS epidemic continues to grow with some disturbing trends. HIV/AIDS morbidity and mortality increasingly impact the poor, the disenfranchised, and the young, groups in which women are traditionally overrepresented.

SEE ALSO: African American, Condoms, Discrimination, Heroin, Homosexuality, Latinos, Lubricants, Preventive care, Safer sex, Sexually transmitted diseases, Substance use

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Category: Acquired immunodeficiency Syndrome