Albany, NY – In today's Academic Minute, Dr. Sean Philpott of Union Graduate College explains why women around the world are slightly more likely to contract HIV/AIDS than men, and the ongoing efforts to address the disparity.
Dr. Philpott is Assistant Professor of Bioethics in the Union Graduate College Mt. Sinai Bioethics Program, where he develops and teaches courses in research ethics. He holds advanced degrees in microbiology, medical anthropology, and bioethics.
Dr. Sean Philpott - HIV/AIDS and Women
Women are the new face of HIV/AIDS. Of the estimated 33 million people currently living with HIV/AIDS, more than half are women. Some of the highest rates of HIV infection in the United States are among women of color. In the hardest hit countries in Africa, there are as many twelve HIV-positive women for every ten HIV-positive men. The disproportionate impact of HIV on women is due to a variety of biological and socioeconomic factors.
One of the most successful HIV prevention campaigns in recent years has been the ABC campaign -- which preaches A: abstinence, B: being faithful to one's partner, and C: the use of condoms -- but for many at-risk women these are unattainable goals. Many women in developing countries lack the economic power to leave relationships in which unfaithful partners put them at risk. These same women may also lack the social power to insist on the use of condoms. Thus, there is a desperate need to develop new ways that these women, and other at-risk individuals, can protect themselves.
Some of the most promising new HIV prevention tools are microbicides, vaccines and pre-exposure prophylaxis (also known as PrEP). All three of these have shown promise in recent clinical trials in Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America. Even these new tools, however, will not be enough to end the scourge of AIDS unless we also develop the political will and provide sufficient resources to make these products widely available and accessible to all who need them.