What do American women know about HIV/AIDS?

There does seem to be a need for better awareness about HIV/AIDS, if the results of a new MAC AIDS Fund-sponsored poll of 1,000 American women is any indication. Among the survey's findings: * Nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of women surveyed do not know their current HIV status. * Most (78 per cent) say they've had unprotected sex, and 72 per cent of those who had sex without a condom said they did so because they believed they were in an exclusive relationship. * Over half (55 per cent) of women say they have never had an HIV test, and about four in every 10 women who were tested can't remember when their last test took place. The average woman who has been tested hasn't had an HIV test in over three years. * Nearly six in 10 women (58 per cent) say they don't get tested because they believe they are in a monogamous relationship. * One in every five women said there was nothing that would convince them now to get an HIV test, even if they had already had one in the past. The attitudes reflected in the survey belie the fact that HIV remains a major cause of illness and death for American women. In fact, "the number of women living with HIV in the country has tripled since 1985 and it's the leading cause of death for black women ages 18 to 35," noted Nancy Mahon, executive director of the MAC AIDS Fund, which has earmarked more than $2.5 million to projects aimed at fighting HIV and AIDS. The perception lingers that AIDS is "a gay disease," Mahon said. "While it's true that men who have sex with men remain the highest risk group, women are close behind," she noted.   One medical expert agreed: "In a lot of communities, women still don't think of HIV as a woman's disease unless your boyfriend [turns out to be] gay, you're doing drugs or you're doing something out of the ordinary," said Dr. Shannon Hader, senior deputy director of the HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD and TB Administration at Washington D.C.'s Department of Health. Hader's team is partnering with the MAC AIDS Fund to increase awareness among residents of the nation's capitol, which has especially high rates of HIV infection. They've also collaborated on one of the first comprehensive efforts to spread awareness about the female condom, which could give women more power over decisions related to protected sex. Hader said too many women trust their partners to keep them safe from HIV, so they don't ask the necessary questions. "Do I know my own and my partner's HIV status? Is it only the two of us in this relationship? And should we use condoms? Relationships aren't always easy, and those aren't always questions that people really want to deal with," Hader said.     Picture: Cyndi Lauper and Lady Gaga aim to raise HIV/AIDS awareness among women of all ages as ambassadors for M.A.C.'s Viva Glam lipsticks Source: www.ippf.org