Thursday, March 20, 2008

Females and HIV

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".


Cat Bell said...

this is great info, but too tragic. Seems like basic science, therapeutic science and preventative strategies are all on a road to nowhere. sigh! Thanks champs.

Mark Lyndon said...

I don't want to defend female circumcision, but it actually seems to protect against HIV:

I still think the focus should be on ABC and education about safe sex rather than genital surgery (for either sex), or indeed any other partial solution.

Champagne Heathen said...

Cat - Ohgawd I hope not! But it is all slowly slowly. What this AIDS pandemic is helping to do, is expose many areas of our societies that need to urgently be addressed... such as basic education for ALL, basic healthcare being accessible FOR ALL, that human rights is easily bandied about, but who is understanding it & how. It is exposing our societal flaws to ourselves, and once we are aware of these THEN we can start on fixing these! But all with times and, sadly, generations!

Mark Lyndon - Fascinating!! Thanks for that! But as it ends - more insights into the practice in that particular country might be needed first for better explanations.

As what is now the case with male circumcision, we need to ensure HIV & the risks around it (having sex before the circumcision wounds have healed/ having anal sex to "get around" the virginity issue) are carefully explained to those people who have just undergone the procedure.

I am all about, "it is your personal choice, but make sure it is a highly INFORMED choice".

Elizabeth Pisani said...

The paradox is that while HIV may pose a greater problem for women in sub-Saharan Africa (though not in most of the rest of the world), the easiest solution to the problem is men.

It's also not fair to assume that if women had more control over exposure to HIV they'd necessarily use it. In fact, the data suggest that women are no more likely to use protection that they control than men are.

Koekie said...

"The practise of dry sex..."
Sorry, what? That is something I was completely unaware of. Why is this something that is practised? In my experience, it's something that's avoided!!

Thanks for keeping me aware, Champers.

Champagne Heathen said...

Elizabeth - thanks for the comment! How are you people all suddenly finding my little old hidden blog!?! And I am loving your sites & linked it already. I will have to read your links properly just now.

I agree with you that prevention measures, in terms of condoms and microbicides are not a socially realistic solution to this. For a start... the women the scientific research is aiming at are often not able to easily access mae condoms, let alone anything "fancier".

Empowerment & basic awareness, for both men and women on these issues, would be my first step towards fighting it. The power of knowledge empowerment & awareness has proved to be incredible, if even on a small level.

Koeks - it seems like a great post idea... I'll write it up this week or the next... Dry sex and WHY ON EARTH!!?!? And yes, when I learned about it I was fairly shocked!