PEPFAR Reauthorization Bills Should Address Increased Risk of HIV Among Women in Africa, Editorial Says
When reauthorizing the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, Congress should address the "cultural tragedy" that married women in Africa are at an increased risk of HIV, a Kansas City Star editorial says. According to the Star, women and young girls make up more than 60% of those living with HIV in Africa and as many as 75% of HIV-positive young people in sub-Saharan Africa. It adds that these figures in part are "due to women's lack of rights, including the inability to request that their husbands use condoms, or even their ability to refuse sex."
According to the editorial, the most effective way to reach women is during routine prenatal visits, when health professionals are more likely to discuss HIV/AIDS with women before they contract the virus or at least during the early stages of the disease. Therefore, PEPFAR funding should be made available in "family health clinics, where women can access HIV testing and treatment services early as they see doctors for their pregnancies," the editorial says. However, some PEPFAR funds are "being held hostage by unsubstantiated fears that the money would support doctors who perform abortions," the editorial says, adding that the "truth is that abortion is illegal" throughout most of the continent. "Integrating HIV prevention and treatment with women's other health care would save hundreds of thousands of lives," the editorial says, adding, "Current restrictions segregate HIV/AIDS assistance, in separate clinics. As a result, many women are not seen until they have AIDS, when it is too late for medicines to help" (Kansas City Star, 5/4).