The number of black women with HIV/AIDS is growing in Kentucky
Hundreds of women in Kentucky are living with AIDS, and females account for nearly a quarter of Kentuckians diagnosed each year with the disease.
Vicki Johnson, an AIDS coordinator for the Kentucky Department for Public Health, said some people still think AIDS is a disease of gay men.
"Well, it's not," she said.
But among women, the disease can be such a strong stigma that they often tell others they have cancer, or seek care from out-of-town doctors.
State public health officials said they are just beginning to respond to AIDS among women with initiatives such as a program designed to help black women engage in healthy sexual relationships.
The proportion of new AIDS cases among women rose from none in 1982 to a high of 24 percent in 2003, and was 21 percent in 2004. More than 400 Kentucky women are living with AIDS, and many others are HIV-positive. Black women are hardest-hit, with an AIDS rate 19 times higher than white women.
Here are some of the reasons why HIV/AIDS is more common in black women:
Experts said black women face more risks than white women for several reasons. They are more likely to contract the disease through intravenous drug use or have black, male partners who are more likely than white men to have been in prison, where AIDS rates are high.
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