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Focus on Gender: Women and HIV

Winter 2008

Even after a quarter century of HIV/AIDS, and despite all of the education programs about how the virus is transmitted and who is vulnerable, many people still regard the disease as affecting mostly gay white men and (usually male) intravenous drug users. One of the most overlooked populations, in everything from education to prevention to treatment, is women.

In the U.S. today, depending on where you live, women account for between a quarter and a half of people living with HIV. But few programs are designed with women's specific needs in mind. Worldwide, women are even more vulnerable, and have even fewer options.

In this issue, we describe some of the issues involving women who are living with HIV or at risk of infection. In "HIV and Women Around the World," Luis Scaccabarrozzi provides an overview of the epidemic as it affects women in the United States and abroad. His insightful article highlights several specific vulnerabilities women face, from powerlessness to negotiate safer sex practices, to domestic violence, to lack of easily accessible healthcare. The facts are brought to life in a Personal Perspective written by Mary, a brave South African woman living with HIV and stigma and helping other women do the same.

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Important policy issues are explored in an article by Kimberleigh Smith, while articles by Dr. Mark Brennan and Rosa Bramble Weed examine depression in older HIV-positive women and HIV among immigrant women. Jane Fowler offers a concise listing of some facts and tips for women who are infected or at risk.

Finally, one of the thorniest topics for women with HIV is pregnancy. Can an HIV-positive woman have a successful pregnancy and a healthy baby? What about a negative woman whose male partner has the virus? Can a woman with HIV pass the virus to the fetus in her womb? Should she have a vaginal birth, or plan a C-section? What about breastfeeding? Vaughn Taylor and Hanna Tessema examine the many complex issues facing pregnant women with HIV and those who are considering having children. And Delia G. shares her deeply personal story of learning first her HIV status and then that she was pregnant, how she coped, and how she went on to build a stable, loving -- and healthy -- family.

We hope that this special issue of ACRIA Update will help dispel some myths about women and HIV and offer insights into their special needs. As always, we welcome your thoughts and comments.

Daniel Tietz is Editor-in-Chief of ACRIA Update.




  
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This article was provided by AIDS Community Research Initiative of America. It is a part of the publication ACRIA Update. Visit ACRIA's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
 

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