The Effect of HIV/AIDS on Women
The Soroptimist International of the Americas published a white paper on Women and the HIV/AIDS crisis that outlines not only some of the factors that make women vulnerable to the disease, but also the consequences they face if they or a relative become infected as well as possible solutions to the rising number of new HIV/AIDS cases in women.
A troubling trend has emerged within the past few years, showing a steady increase of women being infected with HIV/AIDS annually. This trend is especially prominent in sub-Saharan Africa. While the disease is infecting more women than ever before and now accounts for nearly half of those living with HIV worldwide, 60 percent of the people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa are female (“Women and HIV/AIDS” 1-2).
The Soroptimist white paper addresses many different factors that are contributing to the vulnerability of women to this disease. Poverty, violence, cultural norms and customs, biology, lack of education, lack of accessible and affordable healthcare, and marriage issues are all noted as contributing to the rise of female HIV infections (“Women and HIV/AIDS” 3-8).
These seemingly diverse factors are linked together in an underlying practice of gender inequality, which is the main contributor to the spread of the pandemic (“Women and HIV/AIDS” 2).
The consequences of African women contracting the disease are usually dire and range from economic disadvantages to the stigma and discrimination they are faced with as well as the risk of transmitting the disease to their children (“Women and HIV/AIDS” 8-10).
... HIV and AIDS diagnosis, most in the age range between 20 and 24 were infected during their teens. The Centers for Disease ... include African American communities, Native American Communities, homeless communities, women and seniors. These groups were heavily affected mainly because society ... Youth). Vulnerability to AIDS is often engendered by a lack of respect for the rights of women and children, the ...
The Soroptimist offers solutions to decrease the number of new infections of HIV/AIDS in women worldwide by focusing on poverty, gender inequality and HIV/AIDS, three issues that are all related to each other and must be addressed simultaneously in order to produce effective results. Education and self-empowerment among women, as well as the importance of preventing and treating HIV, are at the root of the solutions noted in the white paper to solve this “triple challenge” (“Women and HIV/AIDS” 11).
This is an issue that has caught the attention of numerous scholars and aid organizations. Both Amnesty International and journalist Michael Fleshman, reporting for the UN, suggest that the main cause for concern over the rapid increase of females infected with the virus may not be lack of education. While the Soroptimist cites lack of education as a factor of women’s vulnerability to HIV infection, attempts that have been made by several organizations to educate African women – and men – about the truths regarding HIV appear to have had some success and both Fleshman and Amnesty International suggest the fear of physical abuse as a key component of the pandemic. In interviews with African women, most expressed their inability to demand their husbands to use condoms or even remain faithful to them for fear of physical abuse. While the women remain faithful, they often contract HIV from their husbands that routinely have sex with other women. Women that try to compel their husbands to get tested are commonly beaten (“South Africa: Rural Women the Losers in HIV Response”; Fleshman).
In addition to the fear of physical abuse, poverty – as the Soroptimist white paper mentioned – plays a large role in advancing the rate of infections among women. Women make up 70 percent of those that live on a US dollar per day or slightly more. These are the same people that are most affected by HIV and they get caught in a cycle in which poverty perpetuates more HIV infections and HIV infections perpetuates more poverty (“Women and HIV/AIDS” 3).
It is also not uncommon for impoverished young women to engage in “transactional” relationships with older men, participating in sexual relationships with older men in exchange for money or gifts as a means of survival. In this instance, UNAIDS Deputy Director Kathleen Cravero argues that education would be useful in breaking the cycle of intergenerational sex and thus taking huge strides to breaking the cycle of infection (Fleshman).
... s more than 5 every minute. - In 1999, HIV/AIDS associated illnesses caused the deaths of about 2.6 million ... There is currently no cure for HIV/AIDS. There are, however, anti-HIV drugs that can be taken to ... that 650,000 to 900,000 Americans have the HIV infection. About 200,000 of these people are unaware ... the newly infected people are men and 30% are women. Of these people, half are younger than 25 ...
Cravero also touches on the importance of biology in the “staggering rates” of HIV among women worldwide, as the white paper from the Soroptimist introduced. Women are twice as likely as men to contract HIV because of vulnerability within the vaginal membrane. Younger women have an especially high risk because their bodies have not fully developed and are therefore more susceptible to damage – including tearing – and infection (“Women and HIV/AIDS” 7; Fleshman).
The factors contributing to the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in women that these three articles touched on give an overview as well as a brief understanding of the challenges present in trying to alleviate the problem. They summarized many of the same contributing issues and provided readers with a basic understanding of what the next steps in this process need to be, but the solutions are nowhere near obvious, easy, or clear-cut.
It is clear that the rising prevalence of HIV/AIDS among women internationally is not simply a matter of better education and prevention methods. There are dozens of social, economic, and political factors that play equally important roles and work together simultaneously in increasing the amount of infected women. Therefore, those factors all need to be considered in any long-term attempt to eliminate or reduce the problem. Worldwide organizations and African women themselves continue their efforts to reduce the rate at which women are being infected with the virus by focusing on distinct legislative and political changes in the short-term, hoping to see a decline in the amount of new cases annually. Their efforts may not show results until years in the future, but by focusing on the underlying issues and not simply the superficial issue of the virus itself, their hard work may prove to advance the quality of life of future generations (Fleshman).
Fleshman, Michael. “Women: the Face of AIDS in Africa.” Women: the Face of AIDS in Africa. Oct. 2004. Web. 15 Sept. 2010. .
... some of the myths or rumors that circulate around HIV/AIDS. Initially I thought that this process would be ... through a loop because she looked like any other woman whom you might meet in a club or ... also got me thinking -- “I wonder how many women I’ve met before who may have a disease?” ... ethnic backgrounds, ages and sexual preferences are affected by HIV/AIDS, not only in the United States but abroad ...
“South Africa: Rural Women the Losers in HIV Response.” South Africa: Rural Women the Losers in HIV Response Amnesty International. 18 Mar. 2008. Web. 15 Sept. 2010. .
“Women and HIV/AIDS.” Women Organization: International Women’s Organization for Women’s Issues – Soroptimist International. Apr. 2009. Web. 15 Sept. 2010. .