|Young Women: Silence, Suspectibility and the HIV Epidemic (UNDP, 10 p.)|
The influence on vulnerability to infection of these biologically based differences may be amplified by the circumstances and situations in which young women have sexual intercourse.
Non-consensual, hurried or frequent intercourse may inhibit mucous production and the relaxation of the vaginal musculature both of which would increase the likelihood of genital trauma. A lack of control over the circumstances in which intercourse occurs may increase the frequency of intercourse and lower the age at which sexual activity begins. A lack of access to acceptable health services may leave infections and lesions untreated. Malnutrition not only inhibits the production of mucus but also slows the healing process and depresses the immune system30. Cultural norms may favour early pregnancy, discourage the use of condoms or facilitate intercourse with older men who are more likely to be infected.