March 13, 2007
In Alameda County, the proportion of women diagnosed with AIDS increased from 3 percent of total cases in the 1980s to 19 percent in 2004 and 2005, according to county public health data. And nationally, African-American women and Latinas accounted for 82 percent of female AIDS diagnoses in 2004, though they constitute just one-fourth of US women. AIDS was the leading cause of mortality for African-American women ages 25-34 in 2004.
"When you look at what's happening with young women and women of color, it's alarming," said Maura Riordan, executive director of Women Organizing to Respond to Life-Threatening Diseases. The Oakland-based HIV/AIDS agency presented an HIV/AIDS event at a local high school on March 8 that included a 25-year-old Latina speaker who had contracted HIV at age 16 from her husband.
Outside the event, students could take an oral swab HIV test. The prospect of an iPod, perhaps, boosted the number of testers to twice the anticipated 20, requiring some students to be turned away. Inside the school, students performed safe-sex skits, and warned of STDs and unplanned, lifetime parenthood.
"It's something you need to know about," said a 16-year-old girl, who acknowledged girls face a lot of pressure to have sex. "It could cost you your life. I could possibly have [HIV] and not know."