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close this bookYoung Women: Silence, Suspectibility and the HIV Epidemic (UNDP, 10 p.)
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View the documentGender as an independent variable for hiv infection
View the documentSilence
View the documentAge as an independent variable for hiv infection
View the documentAnatomy as destiny?
View the documentSituational factors
View the documentThe unheard scream
View the documentThe prophetic voice
View the documentAn action agenda
View the documentBreaking the silence
View the documentChanging the operational research agenda
View the documentSanctuaries
View the documentSanctions
View the documentSafety
View the documentRestructuring gender
View the documentThe circle of the dance
View the documentReferences

Gender as an independent variable for hiv infection

There is a critical reality about the HIV epidemic which is yet to be grasped. It can be glimpsed through the following three assertions.

First, women are increasingly becoming infected with HIV. In most of the third world, there are as many, or more, infected women as there are infected men1. These women are wives, daughters and grandmothers, sisters, aunts and nieces.

Second, women are becoming infected at a significantly younger age than men. In areas where the epidemic is newly emerging and in areas where it is deeper, the same pattern is recorded: on average, women become infected five to ten years earlier than men.

Third, proportionally more girls and young women in their teens and early twenties are becoming infected than women in any other age group. A possible exception is post-menopausal women who also seem to be particularly susceptible to HIV infection.

The response to each of these assertions must be to ask why this is occurring.

The implications are that it is plausible that women become infected more easily than men, possibly at all ages and most definitely when they are in their teens and early twenties and after menopause. There appears to be a biological, immunological and/or virological susceptibility in women which changes with age.