“The Feminization of a Pandemic”: AIDS and women

Women are hit disproportionately by AIDS in much of the world.  According to an article from On the Issues magazine (which I actually found on womensphere), “HIV infections among women and girls have risen in every part of the world in recent years. The numbers point to a fundamental and startling reality—the HIV/AIDS pandemic is inextricably linked to the brutal effects of sexism and gender inequality, most pronounced in Africa.”

The article discusses how gender-based violence, discrimination, and poverty increase women’s risks for contracting HIV/AIDS.  While some of the opinions expressed in the article may be rather extreme, the author provides a lot of useful information about the widely-recognized problem of HIV/AIDS rates among women.

It also provides plenty of evidence (which could be added to heaps upon heaps of other evidence!) to contradict anyone who might claim that people only get HIV/AIDS through their own foolish or immoral behavior.  As this article demonstrates, in some parts of the world, one of the main risk factors for contracting HIV/AIDS is being a faithful wife.

Read the article here, or click below for some excerpts.

Excerpts from “What is a Woman Worth? The Global Story is the Feminization of a Pandemic”:

Consider these statistics: The latest reports from the UNAIDS (Dec. 2007) show 33.2 million people are living with HIV throughout the world. Sub-Saharan Africa has more than two-thirds (22.6 million) of the total number of HIV infections. Sixty-two per cent (14 million) of those infected are women and adolescent girls. Seventy-five per cent of all HIV-positive women in the world are African. […]

Many forms of violence against African women contribute to, and worsen, the devastation of women and girls from the HIV/AIDS virus. Women and girls are often ill informed about sexual and reproductive matters and are more likely than men and boys to be uneducated and illiterate. Physiologically, women are two to four times more likely than men to become infected with HIV, but they lack social power to insist on safer sex or to reject sexual advances.

Gender-based violence and harmful traditional practices are some of the major risks for contracting the HIV virus. These include sexual violence, marital rape, domestic violence, early child marriage of young girls to older men, forced marriage, wife inheritance, widow cleansing, polygamy, and female genital mutilation.

Poverty forces many women into subsistence sex work or transactional relationships that preclude negotiating condom use. For economic reasons, women are often unable to leave a relationship, even if they know that their partner has been infected or exposed to HIV. […]

To reverse the spread of AIDS, women must have greater control of their decisions, bodies and lives—as well as their governments and public policies.

In 2004, UNAIDS launched the Global Coalition on Women and AIDS, a worldwide alliance of civil society groups, governments, UN organizations and networks of women living with HIV/AIDS. The coalition’s platform calls for education, literacy, and economic rights for women; equal access to antiretroviral treatment; access to sexual and reproductive health services; changes in harmful gender stereotypes; and zero tolerance for gender-based violence.

Three-quarters of all new HIV infections are sexually transmitted between men and women. The behaviors of men are critical to prevention efforts in Africa.  They hold overwhelming power in decisions about sexual matters, including whether to have sex or to use condoms.  In many societies, women are expected to know little about such matters and those who raise the issue of condom use risk accusations of being unfaithful or promiscuous.

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~ by h.e.g. on July 3, 2008.

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