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Coinciding with Women's History Month, health organizations including the CDC is encouraging all women to get tested for HIV.
Women and teens account for less than a quarter of new HIV infections, but within that group, the black and Latino female demographics are hit the hardest.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), women age 13 or older made up 21 percent of the 49,273 new HIV diagnoses across the country in 2011. Of these more than 10,000 cases, blacks and Latinas are affected at a much higher rate than white women.
The CDC adds that it's not race itself that's a contributing factor, but the "social factors" that can place them at a higher risk: "These factors may include higher rates of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in communities of color, limited access to high-quality health care, poverty, stigma, fear and discrimination."
In L.A. County, the rates of infection among women hover below the national numbers. According to data from 2008, only 11 percent of HIV infections occurred in women, but minorities still make up the largest proportion of all male and female cases. The highest rates of HIV diagnosis are reported in the county's Metro and South L.A. communities, including Compton, Hollywood and Central Los Angeles.
St. John's Well Child and Family Center has multiple clinics throughout South Los Angeles and provides free and low-cost HIV testing, as well as case management and counseling for HIV/AIDS patients. According to the clinic's website, the rate of HIV/AIDS cases are highest among black individuals and are increasing dramatically in Latino community, but there are few resources that provide "culturally sensitive services" to these demographics in the South L.A.
In addition to the more prevalent HIV risk factors such as injecting drugs or having unprotected sex, women face additional hurdles that could lead to their infection with the autoimmune disease.
Women's Health reports that violence against women is a major contributing factor to HIV rates. In date rape or sexual assault, forced sex can cause cuts that allow easier entry of HIV. In abusive relationships, there is a greater probability that the man may have sexual partners other than his wife -- increasing his likelihood of having HIV or other sexually transmitted infection.
To receive an HIV test, contact your nearest health clinic or purchase a new, at-home OraQuick test from any major pharmacy.