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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”



Sexual Activity Among Women With HIV

Monthly Summaries of Nursing Research

from Medscape Nurses

Bova C, Durante A. Sexual functioning among HIV-infected women. AIDS Patient Care and STDs. 2003;17:75-83.

Previous studies have shown that women with HIV infection continue to be sexually active, and advances in medical treatment have helped to transform HIV infection into more of a chronic condition than an immediately debilitating and life-threatening disease. The continued sexual behavior of women with HIV raises concerns about maintaining sexuality, safe sex practices, disclosure of the disease, and possible transmission to sexual partners and offspring. As part of a larger descriptive survey on adjustments to chronic illness, researchers interviewed 101 HIV-positive adult women about their sexual activity and function. The average age of the women was 37 years, and they roughly evenly divided as asymptomatic, symptomatic, and having AIDS. The sample was 51% white, 29% Latina, and 17% African American; 72% were unemployed; more than 80% had used drugs in their lifetime; and 36% had a history of alcoholism. More than 90% were exclusively heterosexual, 17% were married, and 87% had children. Of the mothers, 37% had lost custody of at least one child, and 4% had a child with HIV. More than half reported a history of domestic violence, 40% reported sexual abuse as an adult, and 46% reported sexual abuse as a child. From this sample, 90% reported maintaining sexual activity, with 60% having had sex within the past month. Sexually active women were more likely to be younger and to report fewer physical problems resulting from their infection. Roughly half the women reported satisfaction with their current sexual activity, and 58% reported no physical problems associated with sex. While 51% always used condoms with sex, 37% used no safe sex practices. Of the 10% of women who were not sexually active, reasons included having no current partner, having no interest, physical problems, and fear of disclosure. These results show that HIV-positive women maintain sexual activity and function, and interventions need to target safe sex practices and positive support for women to maintain their sexuality while minimizing risks of transmission.