Exposing the true effects of AIDS
Art Myers, M.D.
'There is a lot of ignorance about women with HIV," says DHMC infectious disease specialist Mary-Margaret Andrews, M.D. To raise awareness about the issue, the infectious disease section arranged for an exhibit called "Women First" to stop at DHMC as a part of a national tour. The exhibit featured large-scale black-and-white pictures that portray the struggles and triumphs of women living with HIV.
"Many people do not grasp the tremendous impact of HIV/AIDS on women and their families," agrees Richard Waddell, D.Sc., director of HIV research studies at DHMC. Waddell organized a public seminar during the exhibit's stay at Dartmouth. The women's storiescaptured in words as well as pictures "poignantly highlight the hope, courage and determination of women living with HIV," he explains.
In the United States, the incidence of HIV among women has nearly doubled over the last 10 years, and AIDS is the fourth-leading cause of death in women aged 25 to 44. "HIVinfected women in New Hampshire reflect the national demographic, with increasing numbers of young, heterosexual, or minority women affected," says Andrews, who directs the federally funded Dartmouth-Hitchcock Family Infectious Disease Program for women, children, and families in New Hampshire and Vermont. "There are an increasing number of young16- to 40-year-oldwhite women in our region who have contracted HIV through heterosexual sex," she explains. "The HIV-positive women in our more-rural region blend into the background and are often very isolated."
But like the women portrayed in the exhibit (including the one in the image above), HIV-infected women in New England are learning to cope with their disease. "Their strength and determination are truly inspiring," says Andrews.
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