‘Machismo’ Among Men Places Brazilian Women at High Risk for HIV
The rate of HIV infection is growing faster among heterosexual women in Brazil and the rest of Latin America than in any other group, due in part to a "culture of machismo" that "makes it difficult for powerless women to insist on condom use," the Washington Post reports. While Brazil has one of the "most progressive" AIDS programs in the world and is praised for its "aggressive" government program to develop generic versions of antiretroviral drugs and distribute free drug cocktails to patients, many Brazilian men find it emasculating to respond to a woman's request for safe sex, and many Brazilian women are tolerant of their husbands' extramarital affairs. The "strong stigma of AIDS as a gay disease" has led some HIV-positive men to seek treatment without informing their wives or to refuse to be tested, and cultural pressures against homosexuality have led many men who have sex with men to marry women. According to a recent government survey, the number of new AIDS cases reported among women rose 75.3% between 1994 and 1998, compared to only a 10.2% increase among men, and many of these infected women were married or in long-term relationships. Paulo Teixeira, secretary of Brazil's AIDS program, said, "We need to empower women, especially those living in poverty who have even less ability to negotiate sex with their partners. But we also need to educate wives of all classes, who often don't see themselves with any risk factor." To address the issue, the Brazilian government is sponsoring AIDS education classes in corporate offices and community centers taught by women with AIDS (Faiola, Washington Post, 9/30).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.