Blogging Women and HIV

The blogger writes that her world changed when her boyfriend was diagnosed with walking pneumonia.

By Christine Contillo, RN, BSN
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HIV/AIDS was the big topic in the health media 20 years ago, but better treatment and earlier diagnosis means that more people are living longer with the disease. Since the 1990s there has been a dramatic decrease in deaths. It’s still primarily a disease of gay men in this country, but facts from the Center for Disease Control reveal that we can’t overlook HIV/AIDS in women. They account for nearly one-quarter of all new diagnoses. HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death for African-Americans in the 25-34 year old age group.

In 2005, 9,893 women were diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and 80 percent of those were a result of high risk heterosexual contact. The CDC figures reveal that currently 127,150 women are identified as living with HIV/AIDS in the US and 64 percent of those are African-American. It’s obviously a population that needs information.

Investigators postulate that relationship dynamics may play a role in these figures. Women may be unaware of their partners’ high risk behavior including illegal drug use and/or bisexual activity. They may be afraid to insist on condom use or they may be illegal drug users themselves which in turn can lead to unhealthy choices. Finally, it’s thought that genetics may make some women more vulnerable to acquiring HIV during vaginal intercourse.

What’s it like to be a woman with HIV? The figures again show something unexpected—that the middle aged woman who is divorced or single again is at an increased risk. For a view into this world check Lisa is a 41-year-old woman who says her “only crime was to have unprotected sex with the man I love.” She’s a newly diagnosed heterosexual woman whose whole world changed when her boyfriend of three years was diagnosed with walking pneumonia. Not only is she forced to contend with his serious illness, she also got a fast update on hospital privacy policies as they related to unmarried couples and HIV testing. Her story is heartbreaking.

Another 41-year-old single woman tells a different story. Anne at was diagnosed several years ago, and she lives outside the US where health policies and care are quite different. Her blog is more of a journal about living with a life-threatening chronic disease. The two blogs and the two authors provide quite a contrast.

Finally, if you need more information about the latest HIV testing or sites where testing is available, check

Christine Contillo RN, BSN, has worked as a nurse since 1979, and has written extensively for various nursing publications as well as the New York Times.

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