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Since AIDS became a part of the national consciousness in the early 1980s, most Americans have thought of it as a disease that primarily affects gay men, drug addicts and promiscuous people. When Oprah sits down with six HIV-positive women, she finds out that this is not the case.

Chelsea, a 24-year-old mother, says she found out she was HIV positive when she became pregnant with her son. Cherrell, Marvelyn and Regan say they contracted the disease from men they were dating seriously. Marvelyn was only 19 years old when she found out she was HIV positive.

Precious says she was infected by a man who may have had sex with other men, while Yvette, a 36-year-old mother of two, believes she contracted the disease 15 years ago through unprotected sex. Yvette lived with HIV for 12 years before she was diagnosed.

Many women think they're safe from infection, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women represent a growing share of newly reported AIDS cases in America, rising from just 8 percent of cases in 1985 to 27 percent of cases in 2004.

"I was a junior in college, so I was very well educated, and I had been in a monogamous relationship for five years," Chelsea says. "I definitely didn't think I was at risk."

A majority of new infections among American women are the result of unprotected heterosexual sex. "I used condoms with people I was with, but I didn't use them consistently...and I probably didn't use them correctly," Yvette says.
FROM: NBA Legend Magic Johnson and the New Faces of HIV/AIDS in America
Published on October 26, 2006