Leaders of the top industrialized countries are set to discuss the global threat of AIDS, a virus that is spreading faster than the efforts to stop it. A recent report shows that more women than men are contracting the AIDS virus.
Dr. Thomas Quinn has spent a quarter of a century researching HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. He works at the Johns Hopkins University Medical School in Baltimore, Maryland, where lab technicians handle the live AIDS virus. In June, Dr. Quinn published a study that shows an alarming trend.
"If you look at the scope of health problems in women across the world, the number one infectious disease problem, without a doubt, is HIV/AIDS."
Dr. Quinn's research shows that in sub-Saharan Africa, 60 percent of the 28 million people with HIV disease are female.
In the Caribbean, women account for half of those living with the virus, and women account for one-third of those with HIV in Latin America.
Dr. Quinn states, "It has spread so rapidly over the last 25 years to a point where it now outnumbers the number of cases of men in the developing world."
Women have a higher risk of contracting AIDS because of their biology and social status. Young women are especially more vulnerable to contracting the virus through tears in the vagina.
In many countries, women are unable to demand that their partners or husbands wear condoms. In some societies, men are allowed multiple sex partners and then spread the infection to their wives.
Dr. Quinn also added, "All of those sociological parameters added to the biological susceptibility make for a huge opportunity for an epidemic of HIV in women."
In the United States, data from the Centers for Disease Control show most of the new infections are among African-American and Hispanic women. Half of the 1.1 million Americans infected with the AIDS virus are African-American.
It's a statistic that alarms Terje Anderson, who is the Director the National Association of People with AIDS, a non-profit organization. " Considering that African-Americans are only 13 percent of the U.S. population, that is so disproportionate it concerns us greatly."
Both Mr. Anderson and Dr. Quinn point to AIDS education and treatment as the answer. Mr. Anderson says it has to be tailored for each specific cultural group. Dr. Quinn says that women need strategies to empower them in negotiating safer sex.
But funding is also an issue. The United Nations warns much more money is needed to fight the global epidemic.
Mr. Anderson says that's true in the United States as well, where AIDS clinics cannot keep up with the demand for treatment and some are cutting back on services.