Canada: Emerging Face of AIDS; Heterosexual Females May Not Know They Are HIV-Positive Until They Nearly Die
August 9, 2005
A recent report by Health Canada's Center for Infectious Disease Prevention and Control found that heterosexual women are surpassing gay men in newly acquired HIV infections. By 2002 - the most recent year for which statistics are available - the proportion of HIV-infected females rose to 25.4 percent of reported cases from 12 percent in 1997.
Brian Warrington, executive director of the AIDS Committee of Guelph and Wellington, believes the number of infected women could be higher. "Women are not getting tested," said Warrington. "Physicians don't think of testing women for HIV. It doesn't cross their minds they should be tested."
Women in established marriages can become infected by unfaithful husbands; wives who cheat can become infected by their lovers; and divorced women who are new to the dating scene need to take precautions as well. "It's really important for everyone to protect their own health," said Warrington.
Maggie Derkzen, 59, did not know she was HIV-positive until after she collapsed at home and was rushed to the emergency room at Guelph General Hospital. Diagnosed with pneumocystis pneumonia, toxoplasmosis encephalitis, and a fungal infection in her lungs, Derkzen had fully developed AIDS. After two weeks of treatments including antiretrovirals, Derkzen finally turned the corner. "Within a month she was standing and the twinkle was back in her eye," said her physician, Guelph HIV specialist Dr. Anne-Marie Zajdlik.
According to Zajdlik, Derkzen is part of a growing reality of HIV infections in Canada. "She represents the new face of HIV- females who don't know they are HIV-positive until they nearly die."
07.26.05; Joanne Shuttleworth
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.