HIV/AIDS in Women and Adolescents

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March 15, 2006 at 11:32 am  •  Posted in HIV/AIDS by  •  0 Comments

HIV/AIDS and Women
HIV/AIDS and Adolescents
Exposure, Risk Factors, and Transmission
Grassroots Efforts to Increase Awareness of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic With Teens

 

HIV/AIDS and Women

The number of women with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infection and AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) has been increasing steadily worldwide. By the end of 2003, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), 19.2 million women were living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, accounting for approximately 50 percent of the 40 million adults living with HIV/AIDS.

By the end of 2002, 159,271 adolescent and adult women in the United States were reported as having AIDS. Based on cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through December 2002, more than 57,376 women have been infected with HIV. Among adolescent and adult women, the proportion of AIDS cases more than tripled from 7 percent in 1985 to 26 percent in 2002. Nonetheless, AIDS cases in adolescent and adult women have declined by 17 percent and have plateaued in the past 4 years, reflecting the success of antiretroviral therapies in preventing the development of AIDS.

Worldwide, more than 90 percent of all adolescent and adult HIV infections have resulted from heterosexual intercourse. Women are particularly vulnerable to heterosexual transmission of HIV due to substantial mucosal exposure to seminal fluids. This biological fact amplifies the risk of HIV transmission when coupled with the high prevalence of non-consensual sex, sex without condom use, and the unknown and/or high-risk behaviors of their partners.

Younger women are also increasingly being diagnosed with HIV infection, particularly among African-Americans and Hispanics. Through December 2002, women aged 25 and younger accounted for 9.8 percent of the female AIDS cases reported to CDC.

HIV disproportionately affects African-American and Hispanic women. Together they represent less than 25 percent of all U.S. women, yet they account for more than 82 percent of AIDS cases in women.

HIV/AIDS and Adolescents

The effects of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) among adolescents and young adults (ages 13 to 24) in the United States continues to be an increasing concern. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 38,490 cumulative cases of AIDS among people ages 13 to 24 through 2003. Since the epidemic began, an estimated 10,041 adolescents and young adults with AIDS have died and the proportion diagnosed with AIDS is increasing. Also, the proportion with an AIDS diagnosis among adolescents and young adults has increased from 3.9 percent in 1999 to 4.7 percent in 2003.

Moreover, African-American and Hispanic adolescents have been disproportionately affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Between the ages of 13 and 19, African-Americans and Hispanics accounted for 66 percent and 21 percent, respectively, of the reported AIDS cases in 2003.

Because the average duration from HIV infection to the development of AIDS is 10 years, most adults with AIDS were likely infected as adolescents or young adults. In 2003, an estimated 3,897 were diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, while an estimated 13,752 were living with HIV/AIDS. Health experts estimate the number of adolescents and adults living with HIV infection, however, to be much higher.

Exposure, Risk Factors, and Transmission

Most HIV-infected adolescents and young adults are exposed to the virus through sexual intercourse. Recent HIV surveillance data suggest that the majority of HIV-infected adolescent and young adult males are infected through sex with men. Only a small percentage of males appear to be exposed by injection drug use and/or heterosexual contact. The same data also suggest that adolescent and young adult females infected with HIV were exposed through heterosexual contact, with a very small percentage through injection drug use. In addition, there is an increasing number of children who were infected as infants that are now surviving to adolescence.

Approximately 25 percent of cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) reported in the United States each year are among teenagers. This is particularly significant because the risk of HIV transmission increases substantially if either partner is infected with an STI. Discharge of pus and mucus as a result of STIs such as gonorrhea or chlamydia infection also increase the risk of HIV transmission three- to five-fold. Likewise, STI-induced ulcers from syphilis or genital herpes increase the risk of HIV transmission nine-fold.

Grassroots Efforts to Increase Awareness of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic with Teens

As part of HIV/AIDS Awareness Week, February 13-16, 2006, the students at the Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High School joined with community leaders to organize a Latino Youth Health Forum.

Activities included classroom presentations, an HIV/AIDS Awareness play performed by peer counselors and a community forum where students and health care professionals discussed present challenges, solutions, and action steps necessary to fight AIDS.

The Forum was part of “Connecting Schools and Community School-Aged Youth Latino HIV/AIDS Prevention Project” (SAY!).  SAY is a national health education project sponsored by National Latina Health Network that uses theater -based peer eduction to illustrate HIV/AIDS risk-reduction behaviors.

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