‘Women and AIDS’—a special subject with special significance. Only recently have the particular concerns of women infected and affected by the HIV virus been acknowledged and openly discussed, and, in the UK, the Scottish Women and HIV/AIDS Network have led the way. I welcome this book as a valuable account of the practical, policy and personal issues which have confronted women working with women, as the HIV epidemic has spread.
The book concentrates on the social and counselling issues which are of great importance to women. HIV is an alarmingly stigmatising virus and affected women often feel a special isolation and sense of social prejudice which adds almost intolerable burdens to already difficult lives. Women with children are specially vulnerable. It’s difficult to persuade mothers to seek appropriate care and counselling for themselves in the face of genuine fears about the impact on their children. Often this has led to women seeking help and treatment only when their HIV disease is well advanced. We must all go on working to break down the attitudes which still make it impossible for women to come forward for help and support when they need it.
The recently published figures on anonymous screening for HIV in ante-natal clinics show how rapidly the numbers of infected pregnant women are growing. This presents an urgent problem of care for mothers and children in many different places in the UK, and the extensive Scottish experience, described in this book, must provide a framework of good practice to be followed everywhere.
However excellent the care and support for women with HIV-related illness, there is little immediate prospect of a cure or anti-viral vaccine; the only way to prevent further spread is through education and information. Educating young women to negotiate safer sex with their partners requires complex skills and an understanding far beyond the transmission of simple facts. The immediate need to expand this difficult work is, again, demonstrated by recent statistics which show that 40 per cent of AIDS cases among