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Gender, violence, and HIV/AIDS

March 19, 2010

HIV/AIDs affects more women than it affects men. My professional life lies in HIV/AIDS research and it was only until recently that the particular research project that I work for decided to include a gender section of the research report.

I’ve been reading various articles about women, HIV/AIDS, and specifically Western Africa, and I was not surprised to see the direct correlation with HIV/AIDS and domestic violence. One WHO report states:

The biological risk of HIV transmission will be affected by the type of sexual exposure, the presence of STDs, exposure to vaginal excretions or blood and the degree of trauma. When sexual intercourse is forced, abrasions and cuts are most likely to appear. In addition, condom use in such situations is unlikely. There is a need for discussion on the reality on a range of sexually coercive behaviours–including statutory rape, attempted rape, and rape.

Not only is violence in heterosexual married relationships directly related to the likelihood of using condoms during intercourse (which makes women vulnerable to HIV), but violence with sex workers also makes women more vulnerable to HIV. To read more correlations between gender, violence, and HIV/AIDS, the Global AIDS Alliance has a great fact sheet.

As some of you may know, women in the U.S. are largely affected by HIV/AIDS, some groups more than others. Women everywhere in the world are affected by HIV/AIDS more than men, especially in underdeveloped and developing countries, where gender inequality remains ingrained in their culture. For example, in Nigeria, where the population of people living with HIV/AIDS is the second largest in the world, about 58% of people living with HIV/AIDS are women.

The purpose of this post was to highlight the connections between gender, violence, and HIV/AIDS. Not a very upbeat subject, especially for a Friday, but I think it’s important for everyone to think about these connections and what it means for gender equality in other countries. In saying that, there is an online forum hosted by SSRC (Social Science Research Council), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). It’s called “Violence, Gender, Culture & HIV in the 21st Century” where you can read articles about the very subject and discuss these issues with other people like you.

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