Women And HIV
Did you know that women are more at risk from the HIV virus?
World-wide half those infected with HIV/AIDS are women, but in some places women and young girls are much more likely to be infected than men. According to the United Nations, young women aged 15-24 living in parts of Africa and the Caribbean are six times more likely than young men of the same age to be infected with the virus.
Because women receive the penis into their body, either vaginally or anally they are more vulnerable to the virus. In fact women are twice as likely to get infected with the HIV virus than are men, according to the American Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Women can also transmit the virus during pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding to their children.
Women can be vulnerable in sexual relations and maybe reluctant or unable to insist on using condoms during sex. This could be because they are afraid of losing the relationship, or are afraid of violence.
It is also difficult for women to insist on their partner being in an exclusive monogamous relationship, as many men don't tell the woman when they are having other relationships or casual affairs.
Many young women feel pressured to enter into sexual relationships at a younger age. Because of the increased sexualization of society, there is a feeling that "everyone is doing it". Also young men often ask for sex as a "proof of love" and many young women don't feel able to refuse.
It can also be extremely difficult for young women to discuss their partner's prior sexual history. She may be afraid of revealing her own sexual past for fear of appearing a "slut" or "trashy" due to society's double standard.
Because HIV/AIDS was originally seen as primarily a gay male and intravenous drug user problem, most of the original prevention measures were aimed at these groups. Women's special health needs, especially in developing countries are often not recognized, and their different risks for HIV/AIDS have sometimes been ignored.
Women of color are much more vulnerable to the virus. According to the 2007 statistics there are 20 times more young black women diagnosed in the United States with HIV/AIDS as white women. Hispanic/Latino women are also diagnosed 4 times more often than white women.
Nearly two-thirds of women with the virus have an income below $10,000 per year, and women are less likely to have private medical insurance. This impacts on women's ability to receive optimum health care once diagnosed. In many cases women are not offered the best treatments available compared to men. Women are, however, more likely to qualify for Medicaid as they may be pregnant or mothers of young children.
What Can You Do?
The first thing to do before starting a new sexual relationship is to both get tested for HIV/AIDS.
Talk to your partner about the dangers of HIV/AIDS and exchange details on your sexual history.
Agree to be in a mutually monogamous relationship.
Make sure you use a condom every time you have sex.
Another way to protect yourself if your partner is reluctant to use a condom is to use the female condom. If used properly it can also help prevent you getting HIV and other STD's.
If you feel unable to negotiate with your partner about using condoms every time you have sex, perhaps you should consider if this is the right partner for you.