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Cyndi Lauper, Lady Gaga Put Spotlight on Women and HIV
Date:2/10/2010

s been tested hasn't had an HIV test in over three years.
  • Nearly six in 10 women (58 percent) 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/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
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