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National News

AIDS Cases Increasing Rapidly Among Black Women in Ohio

February 14, 2003

Worldwide, roughly half the people with AIDS or HIV are women, according to a recent study. In Franklin County, Ohio, the number of HIV/AIDS cases among women, most of them black, has nearly tripled in the past decade. Local health department officials attribute part of the increase to cultural opposition to safe sex messages, including barriers to women insisting that their mates use condoms. For example, some Somali women feel subservient to their husbands. The Somali population in Columbus has grown in recent years.

Sue Crumpton, executive director for the Columbus AIDS Task Force, said many heterosexual women think they are not at risk and do not get tested. Many become infected through unprotected sex with a boyfriend or husband who carries the virus. Some men secretly engage in gay sex without telling their heterosexual partners. Crumpton noted that an HIV-infected man is 19 times more likely to transmit the virus to a woman than an infected woman is to pass it to a man.

Silence and shame might be spreading the disease, according to the Ohio Department of Health, especially among black and Latino women who cannot necessarily count on support from their families or communities. Heterosexual women who are HIV-positive sometimes have a tougher time seeking help and finding support, said Dr. Michael Para, co-director of the AIDS Clinical Trials Unit at Ohio State University. "If a gay guy has HIV, he can go be around other gay men who have HIV [and find support]. If a woman has HIV, she may not be able to tell her family," Para said. HIV is 11 times more common among black women than white women in Ohio, health department figures show.

Carol Lynne O'Neil, health program manager at the Columbus Health Department, said that safe sex is the answer to stopping the spread of HIV among women, but that persuading people to use precautions can be a challenge. "It has taken us longer to break through the cultural and ethnic barriers to have them listen, believe and trust us," O'Neil said.

Back to other CDC news for February 14, 2003

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Columbus Dispatch
02.10.03; Alayna DeMartini



  
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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.
 

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