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close this bookGender and HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS, 1998, 9 p.)
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Gender roles and relations have a significant influence on the course and impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in every region of the world. Understanding the influence of gender roles and relations on individuals' and communities' ability to protect themselves from HIV and effectively cope with the impact of AIDS is crucial for expanding the response to the epidemic.

UNAIDS uses a broad definition of gender (see below). Whereas sex is biological, gender is socially defined. Our understanding of what it means to be a girl or a boy, a woman or a man, develops over a life-time; we are not born knowing what is expected of our sex - we learn it in our families and communities. Thus, these meanings will vary by culture, by community, by family, and by relationship, with each generation and over time.

Research shows that being a girl or boy and a woman or man, influences how a person experiences and responds to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. A gender-based approach to understanding HIV/AIDS examines the ways in which gender influences:

· individual risk and vulnerability to HIV;
· the experience of living with HIV/AIDS;
· the impact of an individual's HIV-related illness and death within a family or community; and
· responses to the epidemic at the individual, community, and national level.

An effective response to the epidemic must be built on understanding those influences.

a broad definition

"What it means to be male or female, and how that defines a person's opportunities, roles, responsibilities, and relationships."