The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released The Clinical Guide for the Care of Women with HIV, believed to be the first manual specifically written for the medical treatment of women with HIV. The manual provides practical, experience-based advice and authoritative treatment guidelines for clinicians treating women with HIV.

“This new manual could not be more timely,” said HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson. “HIV infection among women has become the fifth leading cause of death among women between the ages of 25 and 44. Information in this guide will help clinicians improve treatment and save the lives of HIV-positive women and their babies.”

Recent statistics confirm HIV’s increasing threat to women. Of the 43,517 new cases of HIV in the United States reported from July 1999 through June 2000, 24 percent were among women. Even more ominously, in the 32 states with confidential HIV reporting, adolescent and young women in the 13-24 age group make up more than half of the new cases of HIV infection. In 1985, by contrast, women represented just 6 percent of the reported 10,000 U.S. AIDS cases.

The virus can be especially tragic for pregnant women. Many women learn they are HIV-positive only after giving birth to an infant with HIV, yet diagnosis and treatment before birth can almost always prevent transmission of the virus to the newborn.

“We knew from our research that women with HIV are less likely to be seen regularly by a clinician experienced in HIV/AIDS care and less likely to get the drugs they need to fight the virus,” said Elizabeth M. Duke, Ph.D., acting administrator of HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration. “This manual responds to clinicians in HRSA-supported community health centers who asked us for better information on caring for the increasing number of women they saw with HIV.”

Dr. Jean Anderson, associate professor of gynecology and obstetrics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, served as the guide’s editor. Dr. Anderson, an expert in treating women with HIV, assembled a team of clinicians to contribute chapters in their areas of expertise. Eleven of the 13 contributors are women.

The document, published by HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration, includes suggestions, comments and revisions to the preliminary version that HRSA first distributed at last year’s 13th International AIDS Conference in South Africa. Copies of the guide are available online at hab.hrsa.gov/womencare.htm.

HRSA’s HIV/AIDS Bureau administers the Ryan White CARE Act, which annually provides HIV/AIDS care and support services for more than 500,000 low-income, underinsured or uninsured Americans. HRSA is the lead HHS agency for improving access to health care for individuals and families nationwide.