Thursday, December 1, 2011

World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day. While I know this issue is certainly not specific to women and girls, I certainly want to bring attention to the day and I am going to write a bit about how AIDS specifically affects women.

This day is dedicated to raising awareness and joining in activism against the pandemic that is AIDS. The number of people living with AIDS is staggering and we all should be educated. Check out the below table for some statistics.

We can see from the above that women represent half of adults living with AIDS at the end of last year. This is partially due to the position of women in our world.  What I mean is that the roles we assign to women (plus some biological differences) make us particularly vulnerable to AIDS.  Women are at greater risk for contracting AIDS during unprotected heterosexual encounters. This is exacerbated due to the lack of control/ability to negotiate many women, in many countries, have regarding sexual protection (esp. condom use). We must remember that in a number of societies women have few, if any, rights regarding their sexuality and/or their intimate relationships more generally. 

Globally, HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age. Did you catch that? The leading cause!  While this disease is not curable, it is treatable. However, many individuals are unable to afford treatment. And, again, women face additional challenges when trying to attain treatment due to the inequality faced socioeconomically.  

Finally, I want to talk a bit about the other ways HIV/AIDS affects women. First, we must note that women are primarily the caregivers in households. And, in some areas where palliative care is limited, women hold the sole responsibility of care. For example, in Africa, where we know there are extreme numbers of individuals living with HIV/AIDS, women are caregivers for 2/3rds of those living with the disease. And, let's not forget that this is not their only responsibility. Women are often still charged with caring for healthy children, perhaps bringing in an income, and taking care of household cleaning, cooking, etc.  

Another element we need to acknowledge is mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV/AIDS through pregnancy, labor, delivery, or breastfeeding.  This is important to discuss because it recognizes the extra responsibility placed on women, but also speaks to the spread of the disease.

Want more info? Check out this and this.

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