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Ob/Gyn Group Urges Routine HIV Tests for All Women

Minorities are at higher risk; doctors urged to expand education efforts

FRIDAY, Aug. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Minority women are at higher risk for HIV/AIDS, and doctors need to make a special effort to encourage them to be tested for HIV.

That's the new recommendation released Thursday by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

"Rates of infection among African Americans -- and also among Hispanics -- are much higher than among white women. Sixty-four percent of women with HIV are black, even though blacks only make up about 13 percent of the U.S. population," Dr. Heather Watts, a liaison member to ACOG's Committee on Health Care for Underserved Women, said in an organization news release.

In 2004, HIV infection was the leading cause of death for black women ages 25 to 34. A combination of testing, education, and brief behavioral interventions can help reduce HIV infection rates among minority women, according to the ACOG committee.

"Education plays an important role. Because HIV is more prevalent in their communities, women of color need to know they are more likely to be exposed to HIV," Watts said. "All women should understand how to protect themselves, such as limiting their number of partners and using condoms consistently."

Research has shown that behavioral interventions can increase rates of condom use, reduce risk-taking behaviors, and decrease the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

"Physicians can explain to their patients that HIV screening is recommended for all adults now and that there are numerous benefits to being tested. We need to continue to destigmatize HIV screening and make it a part of routine care," Watts said.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about women and HIV.

SOURCE: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, news release, July 31, 2008

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