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Women and HIV

HIV Among Women

Fast Facts

  • Approximately one in four people living with HIV infection in the United States are women.*
  • Most new HIV infections in women are from heterosexual contact (84%).
  • An estimated 88% of women who are living with HIV are diagnosed, but only 32% have the virus under control.

  photo of a group of diverse womenAt the end of 2011, 23% of all people living with HIV in the United States were women.a Black/African American** and Hispanic/Latinab women continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV, compared with women of other races/ethnicities.

Not all US women who are living with HIV are getting the care they need. Of all women living with HIV in 2011, only 45% were engaged in care, and only 32% had achieved viral suppression.

*In this fact sheet, women are defined as females aged 13 years and older. **Referred to as African American in this fact sheet.

The Numbers

New HIV Infectionsc

  • Women made up 20% (9,500) of the estimated 47,500 new HIV infections in the United States in 2010. Eighty-four percent of these new infections (8,000) were from heterosexual contact.d
  • When comparing groups by race/ethnicity, gender, and transmission category, the fourth largest number of all new HIV infections in the United States in 2010 (5,300) occurred among African American women with heterosexual contact (see bar graph). Of the total number of estimated new HIV infections among women, 64% (6,100) were in African Americans, 18% (1,700) were in whites, and 15% (1,400) were in Hispanic/Latina women.

Estimates of New HIV Infections in the United States for the Most-Affected Subpopulations, 2010.
Chart showing the populations most affected by HIV in 2010. In that year, there were 11,200 new HIV infections among white men who have sex with men (called MSM); 10,600 new HIV infections among black MSM; 6,700 new infections among Hispanic/Latino MSM; 5,300 new infections among black heterosexual women; 2,700 new infections among black heterosexual men; 1,300 new infections among white heterosexual women; 1,200 among Hispanic/Latino heterosexual women; and 1,100 among black male injection drug users.

Source: CDC. Estimated HIV incidence among adults and adolescents in the United States, 2007–2010. HIV Surveillance Supplemental Report 2012;17(4). Subpopulations representing 2% or less of the overall US epidemic are not reflected in this chart. Abbreviations: MSM, men who have sex with men; IDU, injection drug user.

HIV and AIDS Diagnosese and Deaths

  • In 2013, an estimated 9,278 women aged 13 years or older received a diagnosis of HIV infection in the United States (20% of the all estimated diagnoses during 2013), down from the 10,686 new diagnoses among women in 2009.
  • Women accounted for 24% (6,424) of the estimated 26,680 AIDS diagnoses among adults and adolescents in 2013 and represent 24% (242,178 ) of the 1,184,618 cumulative AIDS diagnoses in the United States from the beginning of the epidemic through the end of 2013.
  • Among women ever diagnosed with AIDS, an estimated 3,561 died during 2012, and by the end of 2012, an estimated 117,797 had died since the beginning of the epidemic.

Why Are Women Affected by HIV?

  • Some women may be unaware of their male partner’s risk factors for HIV (such as injection drug use or having sex with other men) and may not use condoms.
  • The risk of getting HIV during vaginal sex without a condom or other protection such as PrEP is much higher for women than it is for men, and anal sex without a condom or PrEP is riskier for women than vaginal sex without a condom or PrEP. More than 20% of women aged 20 to 39 who responded to a national survey reported anal sex in the past year.
  • Women may be afraid that their partner will leave them or even physically abuse them if they try to talk about condom use.
  • Some sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as gonorrhea and syphilis, greatly increase the likelihood of getting or spreading HIV.
  • Women who have been sexually abused may be more likely than women with no abuse history to engage in sexual behaviors like exchanging sex for drugs, having multiple partners, or having sex with a partner who is physically abusive when asked to use a condom.
  • Some HIV infections among women are due to injection drug and other substance use—either directly (sharing drug injection equipment contaminated with HIV) or indirectly (engaging in high-risk behaviors while under the influence of drugs or alcohol).
  • The greater number of people living with HIV (prevalence) in African American and Hispanic/Latino communities and the fact that people tend to have sex with partners of the same race/ethnicity means that women from these communities face a greater risk of HIV infection with each new sexual encounter.

What CDC Is Doing

photo of three womenThrough its High-Impact Prevention approach, CDC is working with state and local partners throughout the United States to identify and implement the most cost-effective and scalable interventions in the geographic areas hardest hit by HIV and among the populations most affected within those areas. Activities include:

  • Funding to health departments and community-based organizations:
    • Awards of $339 million over 5 years (2012-2016) to health departments to direct resources to the geographic areas of greatest need and prioritize the HIV prevention strategies that will have the greatest impact on the US epidemic.
    • New funding to provide training and technical assistance for staff of health departments, community-based organizations, and health care organizations to help them link HIV-positive people to care, retain or re-engage them in care, and help them to achieve viral suppression. Estimated annual funding will be $26 million.
  • Phases of the Act Against AIDS campaign, for example, Take Charge. Take the Test., to encourage African American women to get tested for HIV, and Let’s Stop HIV Together, to address stigma and raise awareness.
  • The Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative, a partnership between CDC and leading national civic and social organizations representing the populations hardest hit by HIV and AIDS, to intensify HIV prevention efforts in these populations.
  • Research on microbicides—creams or gels that can be applied vaginally or anally before sexual contact to prevent HIV transmission.
  • Prevention campaigns, better surveillance, and education programs that work to further reduce mother-to-child HIV transmission in the United States. The Act Against AIDS campaign One Test. Two Lives., for example, provides resources to help obstetric providers test their patients.
  • Support and technical assistance to health departments and community-based organizations to deliver effective behavioral interventions.

a Women are defined in this fact sheet as adult and adolescent females aged 13 and older.
b Hispanic/Latino women can be of any race.
c New HIV infections refer to HIV incidence or the number of people who are newly infected with HIV, whether they are aware of their infection or not.
d Heterosexual contact with a person known to have, or be at high risk for, HIV infection.
e HIV and AIDS diagnoses indicate when a person is diagnosed with HIV infection or AIDS, but do not indicate when the person was infected.

  1. CDC. Diagnoses of HIV Infection—United States and Dependent Areas—2013. HIV Surveillance Report, 2014;25. Accessed March 11, 2015
  2. CDC. Estimated HIV incidence among adults and adolescents in the United States, 2007–2010.HIV Surveillance Supplemental Report 2012;17(4). Accessed March 11, 2015.
  3. Moreno CL. The relationship between culture, gender, structural factors, abuse, trauma, and HIV/AIDS for Latinas. Qual Health Res 2007;17(3):340-54. PubMed abstract. Accessed March 11, 2015
  4. Crosby RA, DiClemente RJ, Wingood GM, Salazar LF, Head S, Rose E, McDermott-Sales J. Sexual agency versus relational factors: a study of condom use antecedents among high-risk young African American women. Sex Health 2008;5(1):41-7. PubMed abstract. Accessed March 11, 2015
  5. Herbenick D, Reece M, Schick V, Sanders SA, Dodge B, Fortenberry JD. Sexual behavior in the United States: results from a national probability sample of men and women ages 14-94. J Sex Med 2010;7 Suppl 5:255-65. PubMed abstract. Accessed March 11, 2015
  6. CDC. Sexually transmitted diseases surveillance 2013. Accessed March 11, 2015.
  7. Simoni JM, Sehgal S, Walters KL. Triangle of risk: urban American Indian women’s sexual trauma, injection drug use, and HIV sexual risk behaviors. AIDS Behav 2004;8(1):33-45. PubMed abstract . Accessed March 11, 2015
  8. Cavanaugh CE, Hansen NB, Sullivan TP. HIV sexual risk behavior among low-income women experiencing intimate partner violence: the role of posttraumatic stress disorderAIDS Behav 2010;14(2):318-27. Accessed March 11, 2015
  9. Mosack KE, Randolph ME, Dickson-Gomez J, Abbott M, Smith E, Weeks MR. Sexual risk-taking among high-risk urban women with and without histories of childhood sexual abuse: mediating effects of contextual factors. J Child Sex Abus 2010;19(1):43-61. Accessed March 11, 2015
  10. Coker AL. Does physical intimate partner violence affect sexual health? A systematic review. Trauma Violence Abuse 2007;8(2):149-77. PubMed abstract. Accessed March 11, 2015
  11. Bauer HM, Gibson P, Hernandez M, Kent C, Klausner J, Bolan G. Intimate partner violence and high-risk sexual behaviors among female patients with sexually transmitted diseases. Sex Transm Dis 2002;29(7):411-6. PubMed abstract. Accessed March 11, 2015
  12. Tross S, Hanner J, Hu MC, Pavlicova M, Campbell A, Nunes EV. Substance use and high risk sexual behaviors among women in psychosocial outpatient and methadone maintenance treatment programs. Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse 2009;35(5):368-74. PubMed abstract. Accessed March 11, 2015
  13. Dinenno EA, Oster AM, Sionean C, Denning P, Lansky A. Piloting a system for behavioral surveillance among heterosexuals at increased risk of HIV in the United States. Open AIDS J 2012;6:169-76. Accessed March 11, 2015


AIDS Alliance for Children, Youth, & Families

Mother to Child Transmission Resources (AIDS Education and Training Centers)

Black Women and HIV/AIDS (National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors)

HIV/AIDS (womenshealth.gov)

Women, Children, and HIV (University of California, San Francisco)

Cervical Cancer and HIV (SmartGlobalHealth.org)

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Last Reviewed: Nov 09, 2015

NetWellness Staff