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HIV/AIDS Resource Center for Women
Michelle Lopez Alora Gale Precious Jackson Nina Martinez Gracia Violeta Ross Quiroga Loreen Willenberg  
Michelle Alora Precious Nina Gracia Loreen  

Women and HIV/AIDS: Not Just a Man's Issue Anymore

March 9, 2011

When the HIV epidemic first hit the U.S. in the early '80s, gay men were the first population to be deeply impacted by the disease. The media, doctors, researchers and even HIV advocates never really fathomed that this would be a women's issue -- and at the time, it didn't "appear" to be. In 1985, women and girls accounted for a mere 7 percent of diagnosed cases in the U.S.

Thirty years have passed and so much has changed since HIV was once called gay-related immunodeficiency disease (GRID). While men still make up the majority of newly diagnosed infections in the U.S., the rates among women and young girls are steadily increasing. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), women now account for 25 percent of new HIV/AIDS cases in the U.S. Of those women living with HIV/AIDS, about four out of every five women and girls are African American or Latina, although these two groups make up fewer than 25 percent of females in the U.S.


AIDS has also become the number one killer of African-American women ages 25-34, the third most-common cause of death for African-American women ages 35-44, and the fourth-leading cause of death in Hispanic women ages 35-44. And on a global level, the epidemic is even worse. According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), women account for 47 percent of all people living with HIV around the world and they account for half of all new infections.

So how did we get here?

Beyond mere biology, there are a slew of societal factors that make women more vulnerable to contracting HIV: This includes poverty; economic instability; institutionalized racism; gender oppression; physical and sexual violence; being economically dependent on men; sex work; an inability to negotiate condom use; a lack of access to education, prevention and contraception; and intravenous (IV) drug use.

Complacency and silence have also played roles as well. Because HIV has been looked at as a gay man's disease for so long, women's needs and the issues they face went completely ignored for years. And while things have slightly improved, women's needs with respect to treatment, prevention and advocacy continue to take a back seat. Whether it's the lack of HIV-positive female leadership in HIV/AIDS policymaking or doctors discouraging women from receiving the HIV test that they need during routine checkups, there are too many times when the systems that are supposed to protect women, end up failing them miserably.

Don't get me wrong, we have had some successes over the years. We have seen treatment advances that allow for HIV-positive women to give birth to HIV-negative babies; the first-ever successful microbicides clinical trial; and a small increase in advocacy groups for women and girls living with HIV popping up throughout the country. But we have such a long way to go.

A diverse group of women.

Women living with HIV need more visibility. If they had that, then perhaps there would not be so much stigma and silence around the disease. But until we can create safer spaces for women to disclose, they will continue to remain more isolated and stigmatized than men living with HIV. Women living with HIV exist in a world where there are too many barriers. Now is the time to break down those walls.

This is why our HIV/AIDS Resource Center for Women exists.

By providing a diverse range of articles, first-person interviews and resources about the HIV epidemic among women, our major goal is to provide women with the information that they really need on topics ranging from treatment differences in women and men; pregnancy and planning information; dating and relationships advice; and disclosure tips. But we also want to emphasize that this resource center is for everyone, not just those who are living with HIV. So, if you are a loved one or a caretaker of someone living with HIV, or you're simply interested in learning more about HIV and safer sex, this is a place for you too.

  • Our HIV & Me: A Woman's Guide to Living With HIV booklet can help answer questions about when to start treatment, getting linked to care, finding support and how and when to disclose one's status to others.
  • Our Hot-Button Issues section boasts exclusive roundtable conversations and special reports that take a comprehensive look into pressing issues from HIV treatment, prevention and social issues that affect women.
  • Our Personal Profiles section puts a face to the epidemic, helps reduce stigma and reminds people that they are not alone by boasting dozens of interviews with women who are living and surviving with HIV.
  • Our Expert Interviews section highlights talented and dedicated individuals who are part of the driving force behind efforts to end the HIV epidemic and improve the lives of women who are living with HIV.
  • We have a great selection of female bloggers -- some positive and some negative from all different walks of life and ethnicities -- who discuss their take on current events, personal experiences and HIV policy.

We hope that our HIV/AIDS Resource Center for Women inspires you to join the fight and become more educated on the disease. But most importantly, we hope that by putting a female face to the epidemic, it will remind you that you are never alone.

Kellee Terrell is the former news editor for and

More From This Resource Center

Newly Diagnosed? Words of Encouragement from HIV-Positive Women

What Every HIV-Positive Woman Should Know About GYN Care and Prevention

This article was provided by TheBody.
See Also
More Viewpoints on Women and HIV/AIDS

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Asia (staten Island ny) Mon., Nov. 16, 2015 at 1:07 pm UTC
I've been putting a face on this disease since 1992
its finally so much easier to talk about it today people are much more reseptive to the conversation
Reply to this comment

Comment by: Emma Anyango (Kenya) Fri., Aug. 7, 2015 at 7:04 am UTC
is it true that you can test HIV positive but and for the next time you test HIV negative?
Reply to this comment

Comment by: Misty McCann (Scottsdale,Az. 85018) Wed., Mar. 5, 2014 at 1:11 pm UTC
I just know,my HIV+,is in just one year of taking meds ever since I first found out,until now,is UNDETECTABLE.
Reply to this comment

Comment by: shaita lee (Baton Rouge, Louisiana) Tue., Sep. 24, 2013 at 2:58 am UTC
im 23 i tested positive 4 months ago i got it from this man whom im in a relationship with hes married but we been sleeping around i didnt know he had he didnt tell me he had it for years i got tested months ago i tried to kill myself i dnt know how to cope with aids hmu at shaita lee 2532 plover st. baton rouge,la.70807
Reply to this comment

Comment by: v.mere (India) Fri., Jun. 22, 2012 at 1:53 pm UTC
I have encountered several women with HIV/AIDS living in pain and isolation. Stigma and discrimination, violence towards them still too strong that they seem to be going through not only physical pain but psychological distress. And so here I am trying to find out their deepest pains through researching their issues that their deepest needs will be met adequately. While browsing some help on methodological issues found your website.
Reply to this comment

Comment by: charity (ndejje) Thu., Oct. 6, 2011 at 3:01 pm UTC
women should be protected from hiv/aids because they are the ones that hold the future for the country
Reply to this comment

Comment by: Bridget (Louisiana) Thu., Mar. 10, 2011 at 12:48 pm UTC
It's not just AIDS, Its syphillis,herpes,and so on. They will treat the man but not the woman. There is the saying in my field. treat both feet not the one that is bothering you. If the man has a disease what about the woman or women. I open my mouth and yell to my boys be careful, and considerate. I love my life and my kids but why just the man.
Reply to this comment
Replies to this comment:
Comment by: shaita lee (Baton Rouge, Louisiana) Tue., Sep. 24, 2013 at 3:03 am UTC
louisiana is the number 1 with aids believe me i know im 23 and i got it from a married man i didnt know he had it and hes been sick for years i dnt know how to cope with it shaita lee 2532 plover st.baton rouge,la 70807 anybody who has aids and had it for years write me and tell me how to cope with it

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See Also
Newly Diagnosed? Words of Encouragement from HIV-Positive Women
What Did You Expect While You Were Expecting?
HIV Tools You Can Use