Early in the epidemic, men vastly outnumbered women among people infected with HIV. In 1998, women made up 41% of adults living with HIV. In 2004, nearly 50% of adults living with HIV globally are women close to 60% in sub-Saharan Africa. Women are more physically susceptible to HIV infection than men and male-to-female transmission during sex is about twice as likely to occur as female-to-male ones. (1) It is becoming increasingly obvious that gender inequality and women's lack of empowerment are among the fundamental issues in the worldwide spread of HIV/AIDS. Only by addressing these problems will the HIV/AIDS pandemic be combated. Paul Farmer stresses this point in his chapter on Invisible Women', "If indeed inequality is an important co-factor in this pandemic, then stopping AIDS will require a more ambitious agenda, one that calls for the fundamental transformation of our world. What is at stake in these tasks is well expressed by anthropologist and activist Brooke Schoepf: Unless the underlying struggles of millions to survive in the midst of poverty, powerlessness, and hopelessness are addressed, and the meanings of AIDS understood in the context of gender relations, HIV will continue to spread.'"
We must ask ourselves how do we meet these challenges and what prevention strategies do we put in place. For many women in developing countries (and to some extent the United States and other developed countries), the "ABC" prevention approach (abstinence, being faithful or reducing the number of sexual partners, and condom use) is insufficient.
According to Amnesty International USA the cultural and gender norms that limit women's sexuality are responsible for preventing women from availing themselves of information on sexual and reproductive health. Discussion of sex-related matters is generally taboo before and even after marriage. Cultural practices, such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), also increase women's... [continues]
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