Face of AIDS: Gender Inequality and HIV/AIDS Introduction The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which eventually develops into acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a devastating disease that has reached pandemic levels, affecting all populations worldwide. Since the first reported case of HIV/AIDS in the early 1980s, HIV/AIDS has become one of the leading causes of mortality across the globe in the history of mankind (U. S. Global Health Policy [USGHP], 2010). While HIV/AIDS has contributed significantly to the global burden of disease; amongst those living with HIV/AIDS, it has had devastating impacts on women and girls.
Amid 40 million people living with HIVAIDS globally, virtually half of them are women (Quinn & Overbaugh, 2005). In addition, new infection rates have been escalating dramatically worldwide, with most centralized in developing countries (The Global Coalition on Women and AIDS [GCWA], n. d. ). In sub-Saharan Africa, women account for almost 60% of all infected adults, while girls account for approximately 75% of all infected young people between ages of 15 and 24 (Brijnath, 2007; Quinn & Overbaugh, 2005).
In developing countries such as sub-Saharan Africa, the proportion of women infected with HIV/AIDS is also on the rise, for every ten men infected with HIV/AIDS, 13 women are diagnosed HIV-positive (Brijnath, 2007). In developed countries such as United States, the incidence of HIV/AIDS had increased by 15% compared with 1% that of men from 1999 to 2003 (Quinn & Overbaugh, 2005). These alarming statistics imply an ominous future for women and girls affected by the disease – feminization of HIV/AIDS. This paper will highlight the burden of disease implications on gender inequality in developing nations.
Running Head: Face of AIDS: Gender Inequality and HIV/AIDS 2 Feminization of HIV/AIDS When HIV/AIDS cases were first reported, it was viewed that HIV/AIDS was a disease amongst homosexual men, and the main modes of transmission were through men who have sex with men (MSM). Presently, however, 80% of infections were contracted through heterosexual sex while 19% were through drug injections (Quinn & Overbaugh, 2005). It is evident that women and girls are bearing a hefty portion of the burden of HIV/AIDS.
Women and girls are socially, physically, and biologically more vulnerable to HIV/AIDs transmissions and stigma associated with the disease. On the societal level, women in developing countries are perceived as being inferior, which is the root cause of gender profiling and stigma towards this group (Quinn & Overbaugh, 2005). The society have set the stage for women and girls to be more susceptible to means for HIV/AIDS transmission; furthermore infringing on their freedom of choice. Due to cultural structure and gender norms, women and girls are deprived of education, thus they grow to be economically dependent on men.
This limits their autonomy to refuse sexual liaisons with their intimate partner. For instance, the practice of safe sex through condom usage is mainly the males’ choices, while women have restricted negotiation power (Mulligan, 2006). The minority status of women in developing countries thus exposes them to high rates of HIV/AIDS infections. Gender norms impacts of HIV/AIDS are discerning and even more harmful towards women and girls because they face stigmatization and discrimination on a greater magnitude than men. An ethnographic study conducted by Carr et al.
(2004) reported that women were more concerned about the psychosocial insinuations affiliated with being HIV-positive, rather Running Head: Face of AIDS: Gender Inequality and HIV/AIDS 3 than the adverse health outcomes of the disease. The fear of stigmatization accompanying disclosure of HIV-positive status has hindered women from reaching out for appropriate and necessary medical and mental support. Stigma and discrimination have shown to have negative effects on women’s mental and physical wellbeing because they suffer from social isolation and low self-esteem (Carr & Gramling, 2004).
This has not only resulted in the under-representation of HIV-positive women, it has also created barriers for women to attain better health (Carr & Gramling, 2004). Being physically inferior to men, women are prone to be coerced and being victims of sexual violence. These factors contribute to escalating infection rates because there is an increasing likelihood for survival sex work (Brijnath, 2007). Attributable to poverty and lack of education, women resolve to prostitution for survival.
The combination of lack of knowledge regarding practices of safe sex and frequent encounters of sexual partners further enhance women and girls’ vulnerabilities to contracting the disease. Sexual violence is also a common theme among women living with HIV/AIDS (Rountree & Mulraney, 2008). Moreover, it has also been suggested that women are biologically more susceptible to disease progression of HIV/AIDS when taking hormonal contraceptives (Quinn & Overbaugh, 2005). The Global Coalition on Women and AIDS The feminization of HIV/AIDS is evident, and requires serious attention.
Gender inequality in developing countries has placed significant burden of disease on women, and has been the propelling force for feminization of HIV/AIDS pandemic. In recognizing and fully comprehending the severity of this pandemic, The Global Coalition on Women and AIDS (GCWA) has taken initiative towards fighting for a brighter future for women on a national level. Running Head: Face of AIDS: Gender Inequality and HIV/AIDS 4 GCWA is an UNAIDS collaborative effort, which involves diverse networks of organizations and political bodies to alleviate this burden of disease on women and girls (GCWA, n.d. ).
The objectives of GCWA are to provide necessary medical attention to those in need, raising awareness, mitigate violence against women, and promote gender equality. GCWA tackles issues concerned with gender inequality and the adverse impacts it has had on women. Public Health Intervention Recommendation Gender inequality and inferiority are the undertow that has deteriorated the feminization trend of HIV/AIDS. Public health initiatives should focus on empowering women and improving their independence.
This can be achieved through specialized support systems that educate and raise public awareness of the roots and gravity of the situations. Furthermore, this should be complemented with employment referencing and acquisition support programs to enrich their economic autonomy. Conclusion HIV/AIDS has become a feminizing pandemic, resulting in disproportionate burden of disease on women and girls. Traditional subordination of women as minorities has exacerbated the severity of the issues. Global Coalition on Women and AIDs is a comprehensive initiative that targets the root of this problem.
Future initiatives for decreasing this gap of gender inequality should emphasize on empowering women and promoting their autonomy. Running Head: Face of AIDS: Gender Inequality and HIV/AIDS 5.
References Brijnath, B. (2007). It’s about time: Engendering AIDS in Africa. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 9(4), 371-386. Carr, R. L. , & Gramling, L. F. (2004). Stigma: A health barrier for women with HIV/AIDS. Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care, 15(5), 30-39. Mulligan, S. (2006). Women and HIV/AIDS. The Furrow, 57(4), 232-238. Quinn, T. C. , & Overbaugh, J.(2005).
HIV/AIDS in women: An expanding epidemic. Women’s Health, 308, 1582-1583. Rountree, M. A. , & Mulraney, M. (2008). HIV/AIDS risk reduction intervention for women who have experienced intimate partner violence. Clinical Social Work Journal, 38, 207-216. The Global Coalition on Women and AIDS. (n. d. ). About GCWA. Retrieved March 25, 2011, from http://www. womenandaids. net/about-gcwa. aspx U. S. Global Health Policy. (2010). AIDS deaths (adults and children) 2009. Retrieved March 27, 2011, from http://www. globalhealthfacts. org/topic. jsp? i=7.