Australia: Research on AIDS-Affected Women Neglected, Activists Say
July 23, 2007
The unique medical needs of women with HIV are under-researched, some activists and health experts said today at the 4th International AIDS Society Conference in Sydney. They called for a comprehensive research plan that specifically addresses women's health.
During unprotected heterosexual sex, women are eight times more likely to contract HIV than men, said Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, a director in the virology department at the Pasteur Institute in Paris. Scientists say women are also more susceptible to contracting STDs - diseases that enhance the possibility of HIV infection.
Attendees also heard calls for more research on how AIDS drugs work in the bodies of women. "HIV medications can affect women differently than men," said Sharon Walmsley, professor of medicine at the University of Toronto. Differences in body size, fat composition, and hormones can lead to different reactions to treatment. And because half of all pregnancies are unplanned, women of child-bearing age should be given drugs that are appropriate for use during pregnancy, Walmsley said.
Among the HIV-infected, some studies have found depression affects more women than men.
In some settings, women's needs are basic and stark. "Many women in Kenya and other countries in Africa do not have the necessary food and water to take the trial medications as prescribed," said Josephine Okumu, a Kenyan with HIV.
7.23.2007; Anindita Ramaswamy