May 2, 2003
A Massachusetts Department of Public Health 2002 report revealed that HIV/AIDS cases reached the highest levels in state history. Of the more than 14,000 cases reported, 28 percent are women -- more than double the percentage of a decade ago. And minority women are disproportionately affected. Blacks and Hispanics make up 82 percent of all women with HIV/AIDS in Boston, despite accounting for just 39 percent of the city's female population. It is a trend common throughout the country, said Dr. Hortensia Amaro, director of the Institute on Urban Health Research at Northeastern University. Factors such as cultural roles, histories of mental illness and physical abuse, and a lack of proper health care are responsible for the growing number of women with HIV, according to Amaro.
As a result, many are calling on state leaders to increase funding for educational opportunities in inner-city areas. Amaro sees deconstructing cultural norms that put minority women at risk as one of the main values of AIDS education. "It is important to consider that gender roles vary across cultures, and these roles have been found to impact HIV risk behavior," said Amaro. "So we can't just work with women. We really have to do much more work in intervention programs for heterosexual men."