Women are increasingly recognized as a significant population at risk for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. In major cities in Africa, the Americas, and Europe, HIV infection is the leading cause of death in women aged 25 through 29 years. New patterns have emerged in the epidemic, the most dramatic of which is the increased rate of transmission for heterosexuals, directly associated with an increase in seropositivity among women and children. Between 1989 and 1990, the number of women diagnosed with the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome rose 34% compared with a 22% rise in men. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have increased support for studies related to prevention of HIV infection in response to these trends. Health professionals should demonstrate an understanding of the complex nature of sexuality, femininity, and the female role in society when educating female patients about virus avoidance, so that preventive behavior will be perceived as consistent with a woman's personal standards for sexual relationships.
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