Economic and Social Equality for Women Crucial to Fight Spread of HIV/AIDS in Developing Nations
Equal social and economic status for women in developing nations is crucial to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS, a new AIDS prevention plan proposed by the International Center for Research on Women and the University of California-San Francisco's AIDS Research Institute states. The proposal, unveiled at an International Women's Day Symposium on Thursday, stated that in many nations, social and economic inequities between the sexes "leave women especially vulnerable to the disease" (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 3/9). To help bridge this gap and quell the spread of HIV, the plan recommends the following:
- Expand government and private sector initiatives aimed at ensuring that women have greater economic status and educational opportunities
- Ensure that women have property and inheritance rights, as well as mandated educational and economic opportunities allowing them to "achieve economic independence"
- Design all HIV/AIDS prevention programs so that they are "fully integrated with other reproductive health programs in every country and meet the gender-specific needs of women"
- Step up funding for research on "female-controlled" HIV prevention devices, such as microbicides
- Reduce the stigma associated with HIV and increase social support for women who are infected with the virus
- Grant women "at least equal access to the standard of care available in their countries"
- Ensure that women's human rights are "respected, protected, promoted and fulfilled" (UCSF release, 3/8).
Financial Dependence Decreases Sexual Control
Traditional AIDS prevention efforts such as condom distribution often fail to fully shield women in developing nations from the disease, as economic and social inequalities hamper them from controlling their sexual encounters. Geeta Gupta, president of the International Center for Research on Women, said, "Women have much less control over sexual interactions than men -- much less control over when, how, where and with whom they have sex." She added that women are often financially dependent upon men, making it "more likely" that they will "exchange sex for money or favors, less likely that they will succeed in negotiating protection and less likely that they will leave relationships they perceive to be risky." Nancy Padian, director of international programs for UCSF's AIDS Research Institute, said that condom distribution and HIV testing programs "cannot be effective" in situations where women "have no power in their relationship with men" (San Francisco Chronicle, 3/9). To view a Webcast of the symposium, go to http://www.kaisernetwork.org/health_cast/hcast_index.cfm?display=etail&hc=107d. You must have RealPlayer to view this event.