U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration

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Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is the final stage of infection with 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 While HIV and AIDS disproportionately affect men, a growing number of women are also affected; in 2006, there were an estimated 11.9 new cases of HIV per 100,000 females aged 13 and older in the United States.

Rates of HIV incidence vary by sex, age, and race/ethnicity. Among both males and females, rates of new HIV infections increase with age until age 40, then decrease. Among females, those aged 30–39 years had the highest HIV incidence rate (22.8 per 100,000), followed by females aged 40–49 and 13–29 years (16.6 and 14.0 per 100,000, respectively). Women aged 50 years and older had the lowest HIV incidence rate in 2006 (3.5 per 100,000).

Among females aged 13 and older, Black women had the highest incidence rates (55.7 per 100,000), followed by Hispanic and American Indian/Alaska Native women (14.4 and 12.8 per 100,000, respectively). 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 sexually transmitted infections, which increase the risk of HIV infection; and substance abuse.2

In 2007, 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 cases of HIV infection among adolescent and adult females, while injection drug use accounted for an additional 14.3 percent. In 39.2 percent of new cases, the transmission category was not reported or identified, and 0.5 percent of new cases were due to blood transfusions or receipt of blood components or tissue (data not shown).

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV/AIDS Basic Information. Sept 2008. [online] http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/basic/index.htm, accessed 02/23/09.
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV/AIDS in the United States: A Picture of Today’s Epidemic. August 2008. [online] http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/resources/factsheets/us.htm, accessed 02/23/09.

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