May 31, 2012
Most women -- 73 percent -- diagnosed as HIV-positive in Argentina within the last two years were infected through unprotected sex with a stable partner, according to preliminary results of a new study.
The "Study of Recently Diagnosed Women" was conducted by the Gino Germani Research Institute of the University of Buenos Aires and the Center of Population Studies -- with support from the Health Ministry, UN Women, and UNAIDS -- for the Argentine Network of Women Living with HIV and the Buenos Aires Network of People Living with HIV.
The 465 women diagnosed since Jan. 1, 2009, were ages 17-70; 51 percent were 25-39. Approximately 70 percent had some secondary schooling; few had post-secondary level education.
More than half of those surveyed lived in crowded homes; 70 percent had no social security coverage; and 46 percent worked outside the home. Ninety-two percent said they had been infected through unprotected sex, including 73 percent within a stable relationship. The diagnosis was "totally unexpected" for 60 percent of the women.
These findings mirror Health Ministry data indicating most of the country's 130,000 HIV-positive residents contracted the virus through unprotected sex. Other official data indicate that half of those with HIV in Argentina are unaware they are infected.
"Since 2008 there is less public information available and there are more uninformed women," said Argentine Network activist Maria Eugenia Gilligan, who said physical and sexual abuse complicate the situation. More than 44 percent of surveyed women reported conflict or tension negotiating condom use.
"Specific campaigns are needed, and counseling and advice are failing," said Gilligan. "Although a lot is being done, there is much more to do."