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Women account for roughly one in four people living with HIV in the United States.1 Some women are disproportionately affected: in 2015, 61 percent of women were African American, 19 percent white, and 15 percent Hispanic/Latina.1 Often, HIV-positive women face social and economic challenges that make them vulnerable and interfere with their health.2, 3
Due to various challenges, women may be less likely than men to receive an early HIV diagnosis2 or antiretroviral therapy (ART).3 Women who are poor, uneducated, or who suffer from mental or emotional challenges may have difficulty in making decisions about sex.2 Women may be unaware of their HIV risk, unaware of their male partner's activities, or have competing family priorities, and delay seeking care.2 Women who have been abused may be more likely to adopt high HIV risk behaviors, like having multiple sex partners or exchanging sex for drugs, and women with a recent history of abuse are more likely to fail on ART.1,3
Did You Know?
The rate of intimate partner violence among HIV-positive women (double the national rate)4*
*According to a 2012 meta-analysis (n=5,930)
Help empower HIV-positive women to take charge of their health
Healthcare professionals are in a unique position to empower women with important health information and connection to care. HIV care guidelines for women from the US Department of Health and Human Services recommend2:
- Routine HIV screening for all women and girls as part of medical and reproductive care
- Clear, nonjudgmental communication and sensitivity to build trust and increase retention
- Comprehensive education about ART as lifelong treatment and prevention
- Patient self-management support, such as training in problem solving or assertiveness skills
- Connection to social services, such as food and housing assistance, or drug and mental health treatment to help women get out of violent situations
- Connection to a multidisciplinary HIV care team—including HIV specialists, gynecologists, nurses, pharmacists, counselors, and case managers—who collaborate with each other and involve women patients' personal support systems and peer counselors when appropriate
CDC Tips to Communicate With Women and Girls5
Talk about HIV
Encourage women patients to raise awareness by learning and sharing the facts about HIV
Know your status
Encourage them and their partner to get tested for HIV. If they're pregnant or planning to get pregnant, let them know they need to get tested as soon as possible
Emphasize prevention steps, such as:
- Using condoms correctly
- Limiting risky behaviors like having unprotected sex or multiple partners
- Not sharing needles
Educate women about HIV treatment: If they have HIV, help them understand that starting treatment as soon as possible and taking it every day as prescribed is critical to their long-term health
1. HIV among women. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/group/gender/women/. Published March 10, 2017. Accessed March 16, 2017.
2. A guide to the clinical care of women with HIV, 2013 Edition. Health Resources and Services Administration website.
https://hab.hrsa.gov/sites/default/files/hab/clinical-quality-management/womenwithaids.pdf. Published September 2013. Accessed March 16, 2017.
3. Intersection of intimate partner violence and HIV in women. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/ipv/13_243567_green_aag-a.pdf. Published February 2014. Accessed March 16, 2017.
4. Machtinger EL, Wilson TC, Haberer JE, Weiss DS. Psychological trauma and PTSD in HIV-positive women: a meta-analysis. AIDS Behav. 2012;16:2091.
5. National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
https://www.cdc.gov/features/womengirlshivaids/. Published March 9, 2017. Accessed March 16, 2017.