Buenos Aires, May 28, 2012 (IPS) - The immense majority of women diagnosed with HIV in Argentina in the last two years were infected through unprotected sex with their stable partners, a new report says.
"In some cases, they are couple who have been together for years," Maria Eugenia Gilligan, an activist with the Argentine Network of Women Living with HIV, told IPS. "The age range has even expanded, and we are finding more and more women over 60."
This national organisation and the Buenos Aires Network of People Living with HIV jointly surveyed 465 women in that situation around the country for the "Study of Recently Diagnosed Women".
The women interviewed were all diagnosed since Jan. 1, 2009. The aim was to find out in what circumstances they were infected. Gilligan said many of the women were "uninformed."
The sample included women between the ages of 17 and 70, although 51 percent were 25 to 39. Around 70 percent had reached but not necessarily completed secondary school, and a few had university or other tertiary level education.
The report to which IPS had access has not yet been officially released, but the preliminary results were presented on the International Day of Action for Women's Health, celebrated Monday May 28.
The survey described the living conditions of the respondents. For example, it reported that more than half of them live in crowded homes, 70 percent have no social security coverage, and only 46 percent work outside the home.
The study was carried out by the Gino Germani Research Institute of the University of Buenos Aires, and the Centre of Population Studies, with the backing of the Health Ministry and multilateral organisations like U.N. Women and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
The chief conclusions are that 92 percent of women living with HIV were infected by means of unprotected sexual relations, while 73 percent said they were infected within a stable relationship.
The results partly coincide with Health Ministry statistics which indicate that there are 130,000 people living with HIV in this country of 40 million people, where the main channel of transmission is unprotected sex.
"We noted that since 2008 there is less public information available and there are more uninformed women. Specific campaigns are needed, and counselling and advice are failing. Although a lot is being done, there is much more to do," Gilligan said.
For 60 percent of those surveyed, the diagnosis was "totally unexpected." One 51-year-old woman said that after being faithful to the man she lived with for 11 years, she couldn’t believe she had been infected.
Official statistics suggest that up to half of all people living with HIV in this country do not know they are infected.