West Australian Aboriginal Women 18 Times at Risk of HIV: Study
August 3, 2005
Aboriginal health researcher Michael Wright and colleagues studied HIV infection in the West Australian indigenous community from 1994-2002. Of the 421 notifications of HIV infection among West Australian residents during that time, 52 were among Aborigines.
"More than half of all indigenous HIV infections were in women and most of those were heterosexually acquired," the researchers wrote. "Indigenous females were 18 times more likely to be infected than non-indigenous females, and three times more likely than non-indigenous males." The investigators found indigenous males twice as likely as other men to have HIV.
While HIV notifications for non-indigenous Western Australians declined between 1985 and 2002, rates among Aborigines increased, the study found. The authors noted similarities between HIV infection among West Australian Aborigines and the pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa: These included heterosexual intercourse as the main route for transmission; greater vulnerability of women; and a strong association between poverty and HIV.
"Poverty and marginalization affect many of the HIV-infected indigenous people in [West Australia], with health providers reporting that many people diagnosed with HIV in recent years have been homeless, unemployed, and had other chronic health issues, including mental illness and alcohol dependency," the authors reported.
The researchers noted that while Western Australia is well positioned to prevent an HIV epidemic among its indigenous population, "the clock is ticking." The study, "Fulfilling Prophecy? Sexually Transmitted Infections and HIV in Indigenous People in Western Australia," appeared in the Medical Journal of Australia (2005;183(3):124-128).
In an editorial in the same issue of the journal, "Controlling HIV in Indigenous Australians" (2005;183(3):116-117), Francis Bowden wrote, "Few indigenous children in remote areas complete high school and, as a result, there are few reliable means of informing young people about health risks."
Australian Associated Press
07.31.05; Janelle Miles
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.