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AIDS Hits Women, Especially Blacks and Hispanics, Study said

April 17, 1987

CHICAGO (AP) _ Seventy percent of women with AIDS in the United States are black or Hispanic, a fact that may have been obscured by efforts to avoid stigmatizing minorities, said an editorial today in a leading medical journal.

These women, and women in general, should be targets of educational campaigns about the deadly viral disease, said the commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Twenty-six percent of the women who got AIDS last year got it from male sexual partners, compared to 12 percent in 1982, said a study accompanied by the editorial.

Meanwhile, another AMA publication said the high retail price of the only drug so far approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating AIDS threatens to put the medication out of reach for many patients.

Drug abuse remains the largest single way that AIDS spreads to women, accounting for just over 50 percent of cases, said the study by Dr. Mary E. Guinan and public health specialist Ann Hardy of the national Centers of Disease Control in Atlanta.

Seventy percent of the 1,819 women in the study were black or Hispanic, the researchers said, but an accompanying editorial said news articles dramatizing the AIDS risk typically picture whites.

Minorities, therefore, may be receiving ″the misimpression that AIDS in heterosexuals is a white disease, just as previous reports conveyed the false impression that AIDS is a gay disease,″ said the editorial by Dr. Constance B. Wofsy of the University of California at San Francisco.

Information to help those at greatest risk must be offered in ″highly specific language familiar to (the) recipient, culturally integrated and delivered by educators who are themselves at ease with sexual topics,″ she said.

More than 80 percent of women getting acquired immune deficiency syndrome are in their childbearing years, the researchers said.

″Women are a major source of infection for children,″ Ms. Hardy said in a telephone interview Thursday. ″If we can prevent infection in women, it will also have an effect on preventing infection in children. In a sense, there’s a double benefit.″

Many women may be unaware of their risk of catching AIDS and about the possibility of passing the fatal, incurable illness to their fetuses, the study and the editorial said.

As of Monday, the CDC had counted 2,295 U.S. women with AIDS, representing about 7 percent of adult cases, and 479 children under age 13 with the disease, with 79 percent of the children getting it from their mothers, said spokesman Chuck Fallis.

Also today, the AMA’s weekly newspaper, the American Medical News, predicted that the drug azidothymidine, or AZT, may be too expensive for thousands of people with AIDS.

Most of the estimated 6,000 AIDS patients on Medicaid will be able to receive AZT at little or no cost, but many large health insurance plans do not cover the cost of drugs taken outside the hospital, the newspaper said.

The drug, approved by the FDA last month, probably will cost patients $10,000 a year, the paper said. Most AIDS patients taking AZT require a dose every four hours, it said.

Thack Brown, a spokesman for the manufacturer, Burroughs Wellcome Co., said Thursday the company is considering ways to help those who do not receive reimbursement for the drug pay for it.

The company spent more than $80 million to develop the drug, and it is also expensive to make, he said.

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