Half Of All New AIDS
Cases Worldwide Occur
In Women
By Eliza Bussey
WASHINGTON (Reuters Health) - Almost half of the new cases of AIDS worldwide are women, and health experts worry that this demographic shift is putting an even greater strain on the social fabric.
"In 1985, women represented 7% of the AIDS cases in the US," said Dr. Mohammad N. Akhter, executive director of the American Public Health Association. "Today, women comprise 23% of the new AIDS cases in the US, while worldwide, almost half of the total victims of AIDS are women."
At a press conference here Thursday, Akhter said that women are "4 times more likely to get AIDS" than men from sexual intercourse. "To make matters worse, currently, there is no (AIDS) preventive strategy that women can use and control themselves, because female condoms are not widely available," he noted.
Akhter said cultural conditions in many countries are such that women "can't control the behavior of their partners" by demanding that they use condoms. And when women do get infected, they are often the last ones to seek help, Akhter added.
Public health experts believe AIDS has hit hardest in poor countries, because those countries do not have the medical infrastructure to help contain the epidemic and provide treatment for those stricken with the disease.
"In the US, there are still health disparity issues. HIV is now becoming a leading cause of death among African-American women aged 25 to 44," said Marsha Martin, special assistant to the secretary, Department of Health and Human Services. "While access to care is much better in the US than other countries, it is still an issue among minorities," Martin added.
Because of the exorbitant costs of HAART therapy, Martin and Akhter said the best methods to 'stem the global pandemic' is through education and condom use, and by creating a barrier product that women can "easily access and control."
In preparation for the upcoming XIII International AIDS Conference due to be held in Durban, South Africa July 9-14, the American Journal of Public Health announced during the press conference that its July issue will be totally devoted to HIV/AIDS. Editor-in-Chief Dr. Mary E. Northridge said the issue will address the social, cultural, and political consequences of the AIDS pandemic.
"In this publication, you will not just see scientific abstracts on the latest AIDS treatments, because abstracts alone do not give you the understanding of the larger picture," Northridge said. "Our journal is attempting not only to provide the highest scientific evidence around public health issues, but also to have a forum of discussion on the ethics and politics of doing the very important work of public health."
Northridge said the July AIDS issue is meant to 'fight apathy' and galvanize a global effort.

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