A rapid increase of AIDS diagnoses among heterosexual black women has largely contributed to women in the United States now accounting for a fourth of all new cases–double the rate from 10 years ago. Although black women make up only 7 percent of the population, they accounted for 16 percent of all new AIDS diagnoses in 1999.
Most of the new cases of AIDS among black women have been diagnosed in the rural South, where higher rates of joblessness, teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and poverty work against the public education programs that have made progress in other parts of the country. Prevention programs in schools also tend to be minimal and centered on abstinence.
The scarcity of information on the benefits of early detection discourages women from regular HIV testing and many do not realize they have AIDS until they receive a pregnancy test. Even after they receive a diagnosis, affording the treatment sometimes proves impossible for the working poor. In some areas, patients who are unable to pay still receive treatment through funds from the Ryan White Care Act. However, many Southern states receive an unduly small share of Ryan White Funds.