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Letter: The Battle Against HIV (New York Times)

To the editor:

Your editorial rightly expresses concern about the spike in H.I.V. among young gay men, but it does not mention the equally troubling increase in H.I.V. and AIDS among women, especially women of color.

A 2005 report by the New York State AIDS Advisory Council found that the proportion of newly reported AIDS cases involving women has more than tripled in New York, rising from 12 percent in 1986 to 34 percent in 2003. In New York, women account for 48 percent of new H.I.V. infections among teenagers between ages 13 and 19, and 43 percent of new infections among young adults between ages 20 and 24, according to the report.

The problem is particularly acute in communities of color. Black and Hispanic women represent 86 percent of women who have been diagnosed with H.I.V. and AIDS in New York. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2004 H.I.V. infection was the leading cause of death among black women between the ages of 25 and 34. H.I.V. and AIDS prevention strategies must include initiatives to stop the virus’s spread among women.

A good first step is to provide comprehensive sexuality education in schools, and ending the current ban on condom demonstrations. We need to equip our children — male and female, gay and straight — with the information and skills to protect themselves against H.I.V. and AIDS.

Donna Lieberman
Executive Director, New York Civil Liberties Union

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