Reasons women are more susceptible to HIV:
- the biology of the virus;
- marital violence & rape;
- Rape as a weapon of war or a general trend in a society;
- Wife Inheritance – a woman is “inherited” by her brother-in-law after her husband has died;
- Female circumcision;
- The practice of “Dry Sex” – where a woman dries out her vagina through various means before sex;
- Childhood marriage – many young girls are married off before they are even aware of what sex is, or know about sexual protection methods;
- Violence against a woman gets worse once she discloses that she is HIV-positive;
- School drop out is higher among girls – girls are expected to stay home and attend to domestic duties or families can only afford to send one child to school and a male child generally will take preference;
- More girls resort to prostitution or “transactional sex” when the girl or the whole family is economically vulnerable;
- Families sell their girls, either as prostitutes or as child wives to get money to support the rest of the family;
- Transactional sex & sugar daddies help girls to pay for their education, obtain material goods they need or want;
- Communities blame females for HIV transmission and strike back violently against them;
- Unequal access to education, economic options, and legal protection;
- Women and girls have fewer choices of when and how they have sex, especially when married or in a relationship;
- Certain misogynist societies still believe that a woman must have sex with a man when HE wants it, and this is not considered rape.
“…current prevention strategies – often summed up by the “ABC” approach, Abstain, Be mutually faithful and use Condoms – do not enable women to adequately protect themselves from HIV. Among young women surveyed in Harare (Zimbabwe), Durban and Soweto (South Africa), 66% reported having one lifetime partner, and 79% had abstained from sex at least until the age of 17. Yet, 40% of these young women were also HIV positive, and most had been infected despite staying faithful to one partner.
Similar trends are seen in Asia; in India, for example, the majority of women are getting infected within monogamous relationships, and many have been infected by their husbands”.
Intervention Tactics to reverse the sexual vulnerability of women and girls:
- Job training for women;
- Economic Assistance for women;
- Greater educational access for women and girls;
- Economic assistance to families for education - to aid the girl to stay in school;
- Educating women and girls on their sexual, economic, and educational rights;
- Educating families on the educational and sexual rights of girls (especially in terms of Wife Inheritance, Child Marriages, safe circumcision practices);
- Home-based care by an outside caregiver when a parent or adult guardian is sick, rather than a girl staying home to care for the sick adult;
- Care & support for child-headed households - so that the oldest girl does not have to seek finances for the family through means such as prostituting herself;
- Economic independence will help a woman to protect herself, to have greater choice against remaining in an abusive relationship;
- Fighting against stigma & discrimination of people who have HIV, particularly women;
- Education for both sexes on the consequences of extramarital sexual relations and the overwhelming negative aspects of abuse.
"Social norms impose a dangerous ignorance on girls and young women, who often are expected to know little about sex and sexuality. That lack of knowledge magnifies their risk of HIV infection. In many countries, most young women do not know how to protect themselves against HIV infection. In countries such as Cameroon, Lesotho, Mali, Senegal and Viet Nam, two thirds or more of young women (aged 15 to 24 years) did not know three HIV prevention methods when surveyed. In Moldova, Ukraine and Uzbekistan more than 80% of young women lacked that knowledge.
Knowledge about sex in general is also surprisingly low in many places. A recent study among rural married women in Uttar Pradesh, India, for example, found that 71% of the women (all of whom had married before puberty) knew nothing about how sex occurs when they began cohabiting with their husbands, and 83% did not know how a woman could become pregnant".
"It is puzzling that men hold decision-making power over sexual relationships and hence are the driving force in the spread of HIV/AIDS but while not showing seriousness in the fight against the deadly pandemic".