Culture, Poverty in Lesotho Contribute to Spread of HIV Among Women
Culture and poverty have contributed to the spread of HIV among women in Lesotho, where one in two women ages 15 to 24 is HIV-positive compared with one in four men, the New York Times reports. In addition to being biologically more vulnerable to HIV, African traditions that afford women little autonomy have contributed to the disproportionate spread of the disease in the country. U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis said, "[U]ntil you absolutely break through on the question of the vulnerability of women -- the way their role is so prejudiced -- you're not going to break the pandemic." Although Lesotho's parliament has proposed legislation to give women expanded rights, the legislature for years has failed to enact it. In addition, the shift in the country's economy -- which was dominated by male workers migrating to mines in South Africa, but relies now on the textile industry in which four-fifths of the jobs are held by women -- has also contributed to the spread of HIV through increased sexual violence and "transactional sex," according to the Times. Although the low wages and long separations from husbands and boyfriends in the textile industry "fit the bill" for increases in HIV prevalence, none of the more than 50 textile factories in the country spend money on AIDS prevention or testing, the Times reports (Wines, New York Times, 7/20).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.