HIV Infection and Women
In 2008, an estimated 25% of adults and adolescents living with HIV infection were female. Black and Latina women are disproportionately affected at all stages of HIV infection compared with women of other races/ethnicities.
In 2009, there were an estimated 11,200 new HIV infections among women in the United States. That year, women comprised 51% of the US population and 23% of those newly infected with HIV.
- Of the total number of new HIV infections in US women in 2009, 57% occurred in blacks, 21% were in whites, and 16% were in Hispanics/Latinas.
- In 2009, the rate of new HIV infections among black women was 15 times that of white women, and over 3 times the rate among Hispanic/Latina women.
- At some point in her lifetime, 1 in 139 women will be diagnosed with HIV infection. Black and Hispanic/Latina women are at increased risk of being diagnosed with HIV infection (1 in 32 black women and 1 in 106 Hispanic/Latina women will be diagnosed with HIV, compared with 1 in 182 Native Hawaiian/other Pacific Islander women; 1 in 217 American Indian/Alaska Native women; and 1 in 526 for both white and Asian women).
- From 2006 through 2009, estimated diagnoses of HIV infection among women decreased from 10,851 to 9,973. It is unknown whether this decrease is due to an actual decrease in new HIV infections (incidence) or whether the decrease reflects HIV testing trends.
- Women accounted for more than 25% of the estimated 34,247 AIDS diagnoses in 2009 and represent nearly 20% of cumulative AIDS diagnoses (including children) in the United States to date. There were 8,647 AIDS diagnoses among women in 2009 compared with 9,639 AIDS diagnoses among women in 2006.
- For women living with a diagnosis of HIV infection, the most common methods of transmission were high-risk heterosexual contact6 and injection drug use.
- In 2008, 4,796 (28%) of the estimated 17,374 persons with a diagnosis of HIV infection who died in the 40 states and 5 US dependent areas were women. Deaths attributed to HIV among women of color are disproportionately high: from 2000–2007, HIV infection was among the top 10 leading causes of death for black females aged 10–54 and Hispanic/Latina females aged 15–54.
Like other affected populations, women face a number of risk factors that may contribute to their risk for HIV infection.
- Most women are infected with HIV through heterosexual sex. Some women become infected because they may be unaware of a male partner’s risk factors for HIV infection or have a lack of HIV knowledge and lower perception of risk. Relationship dynamics also play a role. For example, some women may not insist on condom use because they fear that their partner will physically abuse or leave them.
- Both unprotected vaginal and anal sex pose a risk for HIV transmission. Unprotected anal sex presents an even greater risk for HIV transmission for women than unprotected vaginal sex.
- Women who have experienced sexual abuse may be more likely than women with no abuse history to use drugs as a coping mechanism, have difficulty refusing unwanted sex, exchange sex for drugs, or engage in high-risk sexual activities.
- Injection drug and other substance use increase HIV risk through sharing injection equipment contaminated with HIV or engaging in high-risk behaviors, such as unprotected sex, when under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- The presence of some sexually transmitted diseases greatly increases the likelihood of acquiring or transmitting HIV. Rates of gonorrhea and syphilis are higher among women of color than among white women.
- Socioeconomic issues associated with poverty, including limited access to high-quality health care; the exchange of sex for drugs, money, or to meet other needs; and higher levels of substance use can directly or indirectly increase HIV risk factors.