ATLANTA--To date, more than 58,000 cases of AIDS have been reported among adult and adolescent women in the United States, as well as more than 5,000 cases among children who acquired the disease perinatally. In 1994 alone, more than 14,000 women (25% of the total to date) were reported with AIDS.
In light of these figures, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers HIV infection a major cause of illness among women of childbearing age and their children, and has issued recommendations for HIV counseling and testing for pregnant women.
In the United States in 1993, HIV infection was the fourth leading cause of death among women aged 25 to 44, and the seventh leading cause of death in children aged 1 to 4. According to a study done at the National Institute of Allergy and In-fectious Diseases (NIAID), HIV-infected women are one third more likely than men to die without progressing to full-blown AIDS.
The investigators, led by Sandra L. Melnick, DrPH, and Lawrence R. Deyton, MD, both of the NIAID Division of AIDS, could not pinpoint why women have a greater risk of relatively early death, but they suggested that socioeconomic factors (eg, domestic violence and lack of social support) may play a role (JAMA, Dec. 28, 1994).
Among blacks and Hispanics, the statistics are even more alarming, according to the CDC. New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York, and Florida are the hardest hit states.
Approximately half the AIDS cases in women have been attributed to intravenous drug use and one third to heterosexual contact. Almost all HIV infections in children are the result of perinatal transmission. An increasing number of those cases are the result of the mother having sex with an infected man whose HIV status and/or risk she did not know.