AIDS awareness has been at the forefront of many initiatives worldwide. Programs focus on educating men and women on preventing HIV infection and on how to live with the virus. But a new report from UNAIDS shows a dramatic increase of HIV infections among young women worldwide between 15 to 24 years old.
English to Africa reporter Kim Lewis spoke with Sushma Kapoor, gender advisor for the International AIDS Vaccine Institute and author of “Addressing Gender Concerns in AIDS Vaccine Trials in India: Analyses And Recommendations.” Kim asked her why young girls in Africa are contracting HIV/AIDS at a faster rate than men and boys.
Ms. Kapoor explained that for young women in Africa, there are three main factors contributing to the problem, the first being biological: “With young girls, their reproductive track is still very immature and therefore the risk of infection is great. Then there are the cultural and social factors.”
Ms. Kapoor says there is an inequality between men and women in almost all cultures. Women in many cultures are not able to negotiate when it comes to safe sex and the use of condoms. In Africa, Ms. Kapoor says a young girl’s first experience with sex is usually forced – she has no choice. T
he gender advisor says young women need to be empowered to be able to negotiate with their partner and both the young woman and her husband or partner need constant counseling on AIDS prevention. One partner alone practicing safe sex is not enough. Ms. Kapoor says men must also learn to understand the importance of safe sex and the dangers of having multiple sex partners.