Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is the final stage of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which destroys or disables the cells that are responsible for fighting infection. AIDS is diagnosed when HIV has weakened the immune system enough that the body has a difficult time fighting infections.1 In 2006, there were an estimated 10,537 new AIDS cases reported among adolescent and adult females aged 13 and older, compared to 28,378 new cases among males of the same age group.

In 2006, high-risk heterosexual contact (including sex with an injection drug user, sex with men who have sex with men, and sex with an HIV-infected person) accounted for 45.9 percent of new AIDS cases among adolescent and adult females, followed by injection drug use (17.3 percent). In 36.0 percent of cases, the transmission category was not reported or identified, and an additional 0.6 percent of cases were due to blood transfusions or receipt of blood components or tissue. High-risk heterosexual contact was the most often cited transmission category for AIDS cases, particularly among Hispanic females (49.0 percent) and Asian/Pacific Islander females (47.1 percent). Injection drug use accounted for 31.7 percent of new AIDS cases among American Indian/Alaska Native females, and 27.9 percent of cases among non-Hispanic White females.

In 2006, an estimated 131,195 adolescent and adult females were living with HIV/AIDS.2 Nearly 84,000 non-Hispanic Black females were living with HIV/AIDS in 2006, accounting for 63.9 percent of cases. Non-Hispanic White and Hispanic females accounted for 25,050 and 20,004 cases, respectively.

HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects minorities. While being of a particular race or ethnicity does not increase the likelihood of contracting HIV, certain challenges exist for non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic females putting them at greater risk for infection: socioeconomic factors such as limited access to quality health care; language and cultural barriers, particularly for Hispanics, which can affect the quality of health care; high rates of STIs, which increase the risk of HIV infection; and substance abuse.3

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV/AIDS Basic Information [online] April 2007., accessed 04/22/08.
2 Includes persons with a diagnosis of HIV infection (not AIDS), a diagnosis of HIV infection and a later diagnosis of AIDS, or concurrent diagnoses of HIV infection and AIDS, in 33 States. Data do not reflect improved estimates of HIV incidence released in August 2008;
3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV/AIDS in the United States: A Picture of Today’s Epidemic. [online] March 2008., accessed 04/22/08.

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