Rapid Growth Of HIV In Females
By Candia Dames
29th November 2004
Women in The Bahamas have caught up with men in new HIV cases, prompting serious concerns for health officials.
Although the number of new HIV infections declined for a third consecutive year in 2003, the fact that more and more women are being infected with the virus that causes AIDS means that there needs to be renewed focus placed on educating women on the deadly disease, according to Nurse Rosa Mae Bain, director of the HIV/AIDS Centre.
Last year, 289 cases of HIV were reported. This compares to 332 in 2002- 385 in 2001 and 404 in 2000, according to health officials. Around the world 38 million people are infected.
In the early years of the epidemic, men far outnumbered women in new cases.
But that has changed.
The ratio of males to females is now 1:1. The disturbing trend is a global one, according to health officials.
So it is no coincidence that women and girls are the focus of this year’s World Aids Day on December 1.
“We as women have caught up with and in some countries have even past the men,” she said. “Consequently, we need to focus in on women being able to negotiate safer sex practices. That is crucial. We need not to be getting infected.”
She said, “Women, because they account for all these single homes are the people out there providing that nurturing to the bulk of our children. So the message that we want to give is ‘look, you men support our women. Provide them with the support so that they can use preventative methods so that they do not become HIV infected’.”
Nurse Bain said women are particularly vulnerable because they tend to allow their partners to take the lead in safe sex practices.
Around the world this week, it will be a time of remembrance for the millions of people who have died from AIDS. It will also be a time to focus on the 14 million children who have been orphaned by the disease.
Nurse Bain said AIDS orphans are also a serious concern in The Bahamas, but she said new drugs are making it possible for people to live longer, which means that the numbers of orphans are getting smaller.
Because of antiretroviral medications, she said, there are also fewer and fewer babies who are becoming infected with HIV from their mothers.
The percentage is now down to 3 percent, according to Nurse Bain.
“If we look at the statistics closely we would find that not one mother who attended the clinic, who took her medication, who kept all her appointments had a baby born HIV positive,” she said. “That three percent was because we had a cohort of pregnant persons who did not attend so consequently they did not receive the medication and their baby was born positive and that’s why we’re still at three percent.”
She said the reduction in the transmission rate in The Bahamas is an important success story.
Another success, she said, is that the children who were born with the virus are living to see their teen years.
“Yesteryear, most of our children died before their first birthday, but with the use of anti-retrovirals or the use of AIDS medication as we call it- these children now look good, they feel good, they’re in school and we need to go to another level and provide them with a home setting.”