Women & HIV—Here’s What You Should Know

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The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) attacks the immune system. If left untreated, it can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), a life-threatening condition. Unfortunately, once someone has become infected with HIV, they have it for the rest of their life—there is no cure at this time. HIV is an epidemic affecting more than 38 million living with the virus globally (KFF, 2020). Oohvie is here to tell you how HIV has impacted the female population and what you can do to protect yourself.

Why Are Women at Greater Risk for HIV?

Women make up more than half of the overall HIV demographic worldwide. Adolescent women are twice as likely to contract HIV as their male peers. Female biology also plays a role in terms of HIV infection rates. Women most often contract HIV from sexual contact with a man because the vagina has a larger surface area for greater exposure. Semen can also stay inside the vagina for several days after sex—that means the female partner has exposure to the virus for an increased amount of time compared to males (Women’s Health, 2018).

Signs & Symptoms of HIV

The only sure way to know if you’ve contracted HIV is to get tested. STD/HIV testing should be part of your annual health exam with your doctor. Safe sexual habits and communication with your partner is key to prevention. Often patients have no symptoms of HIV whatsoever. Other times patients may experience flu-like symptoms two to four weeks after the initial infection, such as fever, chills, swollen glands, or sore throat. Sometimes rashes, mouth sores, muscle aches, sweating, and severe fatigue are reported (CDC, 2020). Again, because these symptoms can result from a host of various ailments, it’s critical to be tested regularly.

HIV Treatment

HIV was once considered a death sentence. Today, there’s hope and accessible treatment options available for patients with the virus. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) attacks the virus directly in conjunction with medication to protect the individual’s compromised immune system. Access to ART treatments has increased drastically for pregnant women, children, and at-risk populations, achieving a 67% treatment rate of known cases. Although HIV is still considered an epidemic, most HIV-positive patients use viral suppression treatments, meaning they live fuller and healthier lives with a lesser chance of transmitting the disease (KFF, 2020).



“About HIV/AIDS.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3 Nov. 2020, www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/whatishiv.html.

Published: Jul 13, 2020. “The Global HIV/AIDS Epidemic.” KFF, 13 July 2020, www.kff.org/global-health-policy/fact-sheet/the-global-hivaids-epidemic/#:~:text=Approximately%2038%20million%20people%20are,there%20is%20still%20no%20cure.

“Women and HIV.” Womenshealth.gov, 21 Nov. 2018, www.womenshealth.gov/hiv-and-aids/women-and-hiv.

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