Gender Inequality Puts Women in Ethiopia at Increased Risk of HIV Transmission
Although women in Ethiopia are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS, little is being done to address ways to protect them from the disease, PlusNews reports. According to the latest report by Ethiopia's Federal HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Office, women in 2005 accounted for 55% of the 1.32 million people in the country living with HIV/AIDS. In addition, 54.5% of deaths from AIDS-related illnesses and 53.2% of new HIV infections occurred among women during the same year. "Women are more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia, mainly due to a lack of know-how and control over how, when and where the sex takes place, particularly in rural areas, where culture and religion dominate the rights of women," Alemu Anno, who works in the advocacy department of the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Office, said. Many women also often lack information and access to services, and girls in the country often begin having sex early, either because of early marriage -- which can occur as early as age seven or eight, according to UNICEF -- or sexual abuse, PlusNews reports. According to Berhane Kelkay, coordinator of the National Association of Positive Ethiopian Women, female genital mutilation, widow inheritance, early marriage and rape put women at a higher risk of contracting HIV. Kelkay added that although organizations exist to support women and to encourage increased awareness about gender-based violence, support for such programs is scarce, especially in rural areas. Anno said local resources, indigenous knowledge, and the promotion of women's creativity and productivity can be "vital tools" in combating HIV/AIDS among women (PlusNews, 1/8).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.