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While rarely a month goes by that the topic of AIDS escapes discussion in the legal literature, a survey of legal publications reveals that the implications of AIDS for women has received scant treatment by legal commentators. Unfortunately, this neglect is not unique to the legal community, but reflects a larger societal disinterest in women with AIDS.

In fact, this epidemic looks quite different from the perspective of women. The medical, social, and legal needs of women affected by AIDS are in many ways needs that preexisted AIDS, but which have been magnified by the threat and implications of HIV infection. Rather than creating new problems, AIDS and attendant governmental indifference have cruelly widened the cracks in a system that has never met the needs of persons who have been historically disenfranchised because of gender, race, and class.

In fashioning a legal, medical, and social response to the needs of women affected by HIV, one must be sensitive to the significant problems that poor women and women of color experienced prior to HIV infection gaining a foothold in various communities, as well as to the myriad social systems that traditionallly let them down. Too often, those developing AIDS policy frame the problem in terms that ineluctably miss the needs of large numbers of persons whose lives are threatened by HIV. Unlike many middle class gay men, women do not come into the system by knocking on an "AIDS door." The way to reach women at risk is, for example, through pre-natal care, drug treatment, or Aid for Dependent Children (AFDC). For this reason, AIDS issues must be incorporated into systemic solutions to the needs of poor women in this country. For AIDS advocates to truly represent all persons affected by AIDS, they must recognize that many of the needs of women with AIDS are far more complex than those currently addressed by many AIDS organizations.


Health Law and Policy | Law | Law and Gender | Law and Race | Sexuality and the Law


Reprinted with the permission of the Saint Louis University Public Law Review © 1990, St. Louis University School of Law, St. Louis, Missouri.