Today, the proportion of women affected worldwide is growing fast, but awareness about the ways in which HIV affects women and the services they need lags behind.
(Panos Institute 1990)
On World AIDS Day in December 1990 the World Health Organisation estimated that ‘three million women are currently HIV infected and are expected to die by the year 2000’ (World Health Organisation 1990). AIDS has become the leading cause of death for women aged 20-40 in major cities in Western Europe, in the Americas and in sub-Saharan Africa.
In this chapter I shall consider the extent of HIV infection amongst women in the United Kingdom, and how this picture is likely to change over the next few years as HIV infection continues to spread heterosexually. The situation for women in the UK will be considered in relation to the effects of HIV and AIDS on women worldwide. I shall then go on to discuss the physical effects of HIV and AIDS on women, and factors that affect the survival of women with AIDS. Finally I shall discuss the official classification of AIDS and research into AIDS (including trials of new drugs), both areas in which women suffer discrimination.
In the UK up to the end of 1991 only 5 per cent of adults who had developed AIDS were women. From Table 1.1 it can be seen that the vast majority of people with AIDS in the UK are gay men. Together with haemophiliacs (almost all men), they account for 84 per cent of people with AIDS. Even among drug users with AIDS, men outnumber women by almost three to one.
In Scotland, women account for 12 per cent of adults with AIDS. From Table 1.2 it can be seen that gay men and haemophiliacs account for only 54 per cent of those with AIDS in Scotland. Compared to the UK as a whole,