March 14 is National Women & Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day!
Today at CSUF, we celebrated by having free HIV testing for students, a number of seminars, some workshops, handing out stacks of condoms, and a couple of photo booths around campus where students could have their picture taken with a message about HIV/AIDS awareness. Find events in your area!
Some fast facts from the CDC:
New HIV Infections2
In 2009, there were an estimated 11,200 new HIV infections among women in the United States. That year, women comprised 51% of the US population and 23% of those newly infected with HIV.
- Of the total number of new HIV infections in US women in 2009, 57% occurred in blacks, 21% were in whites, and 16% were in Hispanics/Latinas.
- In 2009, the rate of new HIV infections among black women was 15 times that of white women, and over 3 times the rate among Hispanic/Latina women.
HIV and AIDS Diagnoses3 and Deaths
- At some point in her lifetime, 1 in 139 women will be diagnosed with HIV infection. Black and Hispanic/Latina women are at increased risk of being diagnosed with HIV infection (1 in 32 black women and 1 in 106 Hispanic/Latina women will be diagnosed with HIV, compared with 1 in 182 Native Hawaiian/other Pacific Islander women; 1 in 217 American Indian/Alaska Native women; and 1 in 526 for both white and Asian women).
- From 2006 through 2009, estimated diagnoses of HIV infection among women decreased from 10,851 to 9,973. It is unknown whether this decrease is due to an actual decrease in new HIV infections (incidence) or whether the decrease reflects HIV testing trends.
- Women accounted for more than 25% of the estimated 34,247 AIDS diagnoses in 2009 and represent nearly 20% of cumulative AIDS diagnoses (including children) in the United States to date. There were 8,647 AIDS diagnoses among women in 2009 compared with 9,639 AIDS diagnoses among women in 2006.
- For women living with a diagnosis of HIV infection, the most common methods of transmission were high-risk heterosexual contact6 and injection drug use.
- In 2008, 4,796 (28%) of the estimated 17,374 persons with a diagnosis of HIV infection who died in the 40 states and 5 US dependent areas were women. Deaths attributed to HIV among women of color are disproportionately high: from 2000–2007, HIV infection was among the top 10 leading causes of death for black females aged 10–54 and Hispanic/Latina females aged 15–54.
Like other affected populations, women face a number of risk factors that may contribute to their risk for HIV infection.
- Most women are infected with HIV through heterosexual sex. Some women become infected because they may be unaware of a male partner’s risk factors for HIV infection or have a lack of HIV knowledge and lower perception of risk. Relationship dynamics also play a role. For example, some women may not insist on condom use because they fear that their partner will physically abuse or leave them.
- Both unprotected vaginal and anal sex pose a risk for HIV transmission. Unprotected anal sex presents an even greater risk for HIV transmission for women than unprotected vaginal sex.
- Women who have experienced sexual abuse may be more likely than women with no abuse history to use drugs as a coping mechanism, have difficulty refusing unwanted sex, exchange sex for drugs, or engage in high-risk sexual activities.
- Injection drug and other substance use increase HIV risk through sharing injection equipment contaminated with HIV or engaging in high-risk behaviors, such as unprotected sex, when under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- The presence of some sexually transmitted diseases greatly increases the likelihood of acquiring or transmitting HIV. Rates of gonorrhea and syphilis are higher among women of color than among white women.
- Socioeconomic issues associated with poverty, including limited access to high-quality health care; the exchange of sex for drugs, money, or to meet other needs; and higher levels of substance use can directly or indirectly increase HIV risk factors.
New HIV Infections (Ages 13–29 Years)
- In 2009, young persons accounted for 39% of all new HIV infections in the US. For comparison’s sake, persons aged 15–29 comprised 21% of the US population in 2010.
- Young MSM, especially those of minority races and ethnicities, are at increased risk for HIV infection. In 2009, young MSM accounted for 27% of new HIV infections in the US and 69% of new HIV infections among persons aged 13–29. Among young black MSM, new HIV infections increased 48% from 2006 through 2009.
HIV and AIDS Diagnoses2 (Ages 13–24 Years)
- An estimated 8,294 young persons were diagnosed with HIV infection in 2009 in the 40 states with long-term HIV reporting, representing about 20% of the persons diagnosed during that year.
- Seventy-five percent (6,237) of these diagnoses occurred in young people aged 20–24 years. Indeed, those aged 20–24 had the highest number and rate of HIV diagnoses of any age group (36.9 new HIV diagnoses/100,000 people).
- In 2009, young blacks accounted for 65% (5,404) of diagnoses of HIV infection reported among persons aged 13–24 years.
- In 2008, an estimated 22% of persons aged 13–24 living with diagnosed HIV infection were infected through hemophilia, blood transfusion, birth, or unknown transmission mode, with the majority being infected perinatally.
Sexual Risk Factors
Early age at sexual initiation; unprotected sex; older sex partners. According to CDC’s 2009 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), many adolescents begin having sexual intercourse at early ages: 46.0% of high school students have had sexual intercourse, and 5.9% reported first sexual intercourse before the age of 13. Of the 34.2% of students reporting sexual intercourse during the 3 months before the survey, 38.9% did not use a condom. Young people with older sex partners may be at increased risk for HIV. HIV education needs to take place before young people engage in sexual behaviors that put them at risk. Parent communication and monitoring may play an important role in reaching youth early with prevention messages.
Male-to-male sex. CDC data have shown that young gay, bisexual, and other MSM, especially young African American and young Latino MSM, have high rates of new HIV infections. Another CDC study showed that young MSM and minority MSM were more likely to be unaware of their HIV infection, a situation that puts their health and the health of their partners at risk. Young MSM may be at risk because they have not always been reached by effective HIV interventions or prevention education—especially because some sex education programs exclude information about sexual orientation. A CDC study of MSM in 15 cities found that 80% had not been reached in the past year by HIV interventions known to be most effective. Young MSM may also have increased risk factors for HIV (such as risky sexual behaviors) due to isolation and lack of support.
Sexual abuse. Young adults, both male and female, who have experienced sexual abuse are more likely to engage in sexual or drug-related risk behaviors that could put them at risk for HIV infection.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The presence of an STI greatly increases a person’s likelihood of acquiring or transmitting HIV. Some of the highest STI rates in the country are among young people, especially young people of minority races and ethnicities.
Young people in the US use alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs at high rates. CDC’s 2009 National YRBS found that 24.2% of high school students had had five or more drinks of alcohol in a row on at least 1 day during the 30 days before the survey, and 20.8% had used marijuana at least one time during the 30 days before the survey. Both casual and chronic substance users are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors, such as unprotected sex, when they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Runaways, homeless young people, and young persons who have become dependent on drugs are at high risk for HIV infection if they exchange sex for drugs, money, or shelter.
Lack of Awareness
Research has shown that a large proportion of young people are not concerned about becoming infected with HIV. This lack of awareness can translate into not taking measures that could protect their health.
Abstaining from sex and drug use is the most effective way to avoid HIV infection, but adolescents need accurate, age-appropriate information about HIV and AIDS, how to reduce or eliminate risk factors, how to talk with a potential partner about risk factors and how to negotiate safer sex, where to get tested for HIV, and how to use a condom correctly. Parents also need to reinforce health messages, including how to protect oneself from HIV infection.