While young gay and bisexual men are the highest risk for HIV, heterosexual women aren’t in the clear either. In 2009, women comprised 51% of the population and represented 23% of new HIV infections.
Women are exceptionally vulnerable to this infection; while condoms are an effective HIV prevention strategy, there is no 100% female-controlled prevention method. Condoms ultimately require a man’s consent and proper execution on his part.
In situations of domestic abuse, a man may refuse to use a condom or the woman may be too timid to ask for him to use one. According to one study, twice as many women with HIV reported being a victim of domestic or sexual violence, as opposed to women without HIV. New technology for a woman-initiated prevention method is in development, but until then, increased HIV prevention and education is key.
Most women are infected with HIV via heterosexual sex, whether through anal sex or vaginal sex. Among women, black women are 15 times more likely to contract HIV than white women and 3 times more likely than Hispanic/Latina women. Besides unprotected sex, other factors that contribute to a woman’s HIV risk include socioeconomic factors, a history of sexual abuse, drug use and the presence of other STDs.
All sexually active women should have an HIV test once a year, regardless of risk factors.