The AIDS epidemic is increasingly taking on a female face in America, with the number of women with AIDS soaring 15% between 1999 and 2003 - compared with 1% in men - a sobering new report shows.
And a growing percentage of all new infections with HIV - the virus that causes AIDS - is happening between men and women and is on track to eclipse homosexual transmission within a decade if left unchecked, researchers said yesterday. "This is going to continue on the same trend until we get much more targeted prevention to women," said the lead researcher, Thomas Quinn of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
In New York City, the number of women with HIV or full-blown AIDS has grown 9.4% between 2001 and 2003, outpacing the 8.5% increase in men, though there are still about twice as many HIV-positive men as women, city records show. The alarming trend spurred city officials to issue a health bulletin earlier this year warning women that unprotected sex is riskier for women than men.
"Women are more vulnerable to this disease than people had thought," said Diane Tufaro, a member of the state Health Department's HIV Women's Guideline Committee. Women are more likely to become infected with HIV than men because of their anatomy and because having other sexually transmitted diseases is more likely to break down the vagina's natural barrier against the virus, said Tufaro, a nurse practitioner at Westchester Medical Center.
Four out of five American women with HIV were infected through heterosexual sex, with the rest getting it from tainted needles, according to findings published today in the journal Science. "Men are the ones who are spreading it to women," Quinn told the Daily News. "Women can spread it to men, but it's harder."
Black women were 25 times more likely to be diagnosed with the incurable disease than white women, underscoring a strong link between AIDS and poverty and lack of access to good health care, Quinn said.
In sub-Saharan Africa, 60% of AIDS patients are women. "We're just following the same trend if this remains unchecked," Quinn said....
Welcome to sub-Saharan ... New York? Chicago? Houston? Philadelphia?
So apparently the Great Heterosexual AIDS Epidemic will happen, is happening. It's just that it happened much more slowly than anyone had thought, back in the early days.
And, of course, the faces of AIDS will not only be mostly female, but also mostly varying shades of brown. Since the disease will remain primarily that of the underclasses, minorities and the powerless, it will remain easy to ignore.
Except, of course, that certain elements of the religious right will jump on this type of thing to demonstrate that it proves -- proves -- that women should remain virgins until marriage! (The fact that a certain percentage of these women are faithful and married and are catching the disease from their philandering men will be tactfully ignored.)
Think this is an exaggeration?
Will cancer vaccine get to all women?
# 18 April 2005
# NewScientist.com news service
# Debora MacKenzie
DEATHS from cervical cancer could jump fourfold to a million a year by 2050, mainly in developing countries. This could be prevented by soon-to-be-approved vaccines against the virus that causes most cases of cervical cancer - but there are signs that opposition to the vaccines might lead to many preventable deaths.
The trouble is that the human papilloma virus (HPV) is sexually transmitted. So to prevent infection, girls will have to be vaccinated before they become sexually active, which could be a problem in many countries.
In the US, for instance, religious groups are gearing up to oppose vaccination, despite a survey showing 80 per cent of parents favour vaccinating their daughters. "Abstinence is the best way to prevent HPV," says Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council, a leading Christian lobby group that has made much of the fact that, because it can spread by skin contact, condoms are not as effective against HPV as they are against other viruses such as HIV.
"Giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful, because they may see it as a licence to engage in premarital sex," Maher claims, though it is arguable how many young women have even heard of the virus....
Virginity or Death!
Imagine a vaccine that would protect women from a serious gynecological cancer. Wouldn't that be great? Well, both Merck and GlaxoSmithKline recently announced that they have conducted successful trials of vaccines that protect against the human papilloma virus. HPV is not only an incredibly widespread sexually transmitted infection but is responsible for at least 70 percent of cases of cervical cancer, which is diagnosed in 10,000 American women a year and kills 4,000. Wonderful, you are probably thinking, all we need to do is vaccinate girls (and boys too for good measure) before they become sexually active, around puberty, and HPV--and, in thirty or forty years, seven in ten cases of cervical cancer--goes poof. Not so fast: We're living in God's country now. The Christian right doesn't like the sound of this vaccine at all. "Giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful," Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council told the British magazine New Scientist, "because they may see it as a license to engage in premarital sex." Raise your hand if you think that what is keeping girls virgins now is the threat of getting cervical cancer when they are 60 from a disease they've probably never heard of.
[...] Christian conservatives have a special reason to be less than thrilled about the HPV vaccine. Although not as famous as chlamydia or herpes, HPV has the distinction of not being preventable by condoms. It's Exhibit A in those gory high school slide shows that try to scare kids away from sex, and it is also useful for undermining the case for rubbers generally--why bother when you could get HPV anyway? In 2000, Congressman (now Senator) Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who used to give gruesome lectures on HPV for young Congressional aides, even used HPV to propose warning labels on condoms. With HPV potentially eliminated, the antisex brigade will lose a card it has regarded as a trump unless it can persuade parents that vaccinating their daughters will turn them into tramps, and that sex today is worse than cancer tomorrow. According to New Scientist, 80 percent of parents want the vaccine for their daughters--but their priests and pastors haven't worked them over yet....
The two big issues are that the vaccine is much more effective the younger you start -- so you need to vaccinate adolescents against a sexually transmitted disease, which many parents will find conceptually difficult -- and you need to vaccinate women in countries (alas, including this one) which have or are re-creating strong notions of female chastity. In developing countries, it looks like the key to reducing HPV and cervical cancer will be vaccinating men -- who are socially more allowed to be sexually active (although with whom, one wonders) so that they will not give the vaccine to their women. In the US, since the idea is not only to control the sexuality of women, but to control everyone's sexuality, that safety valve isn't likely to be available.
The question is, how many parents out there, once they get past the initial "You want to vaccinate my child against THAT? But they're so young!" barrier, will decide that it's worth it to have done. After all, vaccination is a private thing. Kids get shots against all sorts of things all the time. Perhaps the best thing to do would be to recommend it as a standard childhood vaccination, in a way that leaps around the issue of sexual activity.Posted by iain at June 10, 2005 04:17 PM