Feminization of AIDS in Africa

 

  While back oldest daughter was an intern at an affiliate of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).  Her work took her to a conference in Nairobi “Integrating programming to address gender-based violence and engage men and boys to challenge gender inequality in national AIDS strategies and plans”.

  On her day off, she explored Kibera, the second largest (after Soweto) slum in east Africa.  There, she came upon a group of women selling hand made crafts, such as the pin above, to help defray the expense of their AIDS related medicine.  The women had organized themselves because “no one was helping them”.

  “The women I met had been ostracized because their husbands (and their husbands’ families) threw them out of their house/family when they disclosed their status.  Odds are, they got HIV from their husbands (who are more likely to have been promiscuous outside of the marriage).”

  Three-quarters of those 15-24 living with HIV in Africa are female.  The grim reaper follows with AIDs being the leading cause of death for African women 25 to 34.  Aspects of biology and physiology make females more likely to contract HIV during even consensual sex. 

  Furthermore, “heightened female HIV susceptibility is rooted in gender inequality, which leads to sexual assault and women’s limited ability to negotiate safe sex”.*  Forced sex can lead to tissue tears and abrasions thus facilitating disease transmission. 

  The relative few women able to fund an IV drug habit are similarly disadvantaged because they are usually the last to share a needle. Some HIV positive women have been reinfected by a mutated version of the virus thus complicating treatment programs.

  These are acts of individual violence and discrimination, yet an emerging aspect of the human rights paradigm holds that states are responsible for amelioration. Due diligence principles are being developed with potential to “transform patriarchal gender structures and values that perpetuate and entrench violence against women” and the closely related feminization of AIDS in Africa. 

*These are very few words describing a complex and terrible state of affairs.  Read ”Due Diligence in the Context of Gender Inequality and HIV”, by Tiana O’Konek for more information

 

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