HEALTH STATUS >
Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) was primarily
diagnosed in men in the early 1980s, but the disease has since become
more prevalent among women. In 1988, AIDS cases reported among men
were 7,504 compared to 524 among women. By 2003, the number of cases
reported among women had grown to 11,561, an increase of over 2,000
percent. In 1993, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
expanded the criteria for AIDS cases to include persons with severe
immunosuppression, pulmonary tuberculosis, recurrent pneumonia,
and invasive cervical cancer.1 This change is partially
responsible for the greatly increased number of reported AIDS cases.
Although the number of AIDS cases has increased among women in general,
the epidemic has disproportionately affected particular racial and
ethnic groups. In 2003, non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic women represented
less than one-fourth of all U.S. women, yet they accounted for more
than three-fourths of women with AIDS. In 2002, HIV/AIDS represented
the 5th leading cause of death among women aged 35-44, but it was
the 3rd leading cause among non-Hispanic Black women in this age
group and the leading cause among non-Hispanic Black women aged
Of the 11,561 reported AIDS cases among women in 2003, 45 percent
were infected through heterosexual contact. Among these women, 76
percent were exposed through sex with an HIV-infected person without
a specified risk, 18.8 percent were exposed through sex with an
injection drug user, and 4.3 percent were exposed through sex with
a bisexual male. Of all reported cases among women in 2003, another
19.5 percent were infected through their own injection drug use.
One percent of women were infected by receipt of blood components
or tissue, and less than one percent were exposed due to hemophilia
or another coagulation disorder. An additional 34 percent of women
were exposed through a risk that was not reported or identified.
Overall, between 1998 and 2003 the number of women dying with AIDS
and the number of new diagnoses increased only slightly. The number
of reported cases is potentially misleading since it does not indicate
when a person was infected. In contrast, the number of women living
with AIDS rose dramatically (from 57,338 to 88,815) between 1998
and 2003, due in large part to recent advances in combination drug
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Impact
of the Expanded AIDS Surveillance Case Definition on AIDS Case
Reporting-United States, First Quarter, 1993. MMWR 42(16):308-310.
2 Anderson RN, Smith BL. Deaths: Leading Causes for
2002. National Vital Statistics Report 2005; 53(17).