AIDS Prevention and Services: Community Based Research

By Johannes P. Van Vugt | Go to book overview

6 AWARE: A Community Based
Research and Peer Intervention
Program for Women

Judith B. Cohen, Pamela A. Derish, and Lori E. Dorfman


INTRODUCTION

The Association for Women's AIDS Research and Education (AWARE) officially began in 1984, at a time when very little was known about acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) risk in women. Among the 7,064 cases reported nationally by December 1984, only 452 (6.4 percent) were in women, predominantly as a result of intravenous drug use (58 percent) or transfusions (7.6 percent). An additional 11 percent of women with AIDS had heterosexual contact with a male in a high-risk group as their only possible source of acquiring AIDS (Centers for Disease Control 1984; 1985). Although the epidemiological evidence accumulated over the previous several years suggested that AIDS could be contracted solely via sexual transmission between heterosexuals ( Harris et al. 1983: 1181-1184; Pitchenick, Fischl, and Spira 1983: 1310-1312), the means by which this transmission occurred was not known. The AIDS virus had been found in ejaculate ( Ho, Schooley, and Rota 1984: 451-453; Zagury et al. 1984: 449-551), but whether certain activities enhanced transmission from males to females had not been widely studied. Evidence of female-to-male transmission in the United States was minimal, but in Africa, nearly 50 percent of the reported cases of AIDS were in women, and disease prevalence in males and females was associated with having multiple partners, including prostitutes ( Van de Perre et al. 1985: 62-65; Piot et al. 1984: 65-69).

In San Francisco, by 1984 there had been only three cases of AIDS in women, only one of whom had sexual transmission as a presumed risk factor. In contrast, in New York, as of June 1984, there had been 178 cases of AIDS in women, 14.6 percent of whom had, as their only risk exposure, a sexual partner in a high-risk group ( Mahr 1985: personal communication). In other aspects of the epidemic, New York was one to two years ahead of

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