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HIV and women: fighting hypocrisy

Jessica Reed
17 July 2007

by Jessica Reed

aids-india.jpg

During the month of June openDemocracy ran a blog written by female voices, titled "openSummit: Women talk to the G8". We ran stories and opinion pieces written by practitioners, journalists, policy makers and researchers on various topics they would have liked the G8 to treat seriously and in depth, with a gender perspective in mind. Climate change, micro-credit, sexual education, reproductive choices and fundamentalism were some of the burning issues our dedicated bloggers have explored (more...).

One topic -the HIV/AIDS epidemic increasingly affecting women- was briefly addressed by Patricia Daniel, and will be covered in more depth as part of our 50.50/Pathways initiative. And while this issue is usually treated in direct reference to Africa, where the disease is decimating women at an incredible speed, the global media is starting to look at China and India, both countries ravaged by the disease in which sexual education is not readily available or widely disseminated.

In this light, one can only admire India's Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Chowdhury, who this week slammed her country's hypocrisy on sexual issues during the National Women Forum of Indian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS. Money quote (Reuters):

"You cannot trust men or your husbands, with apologies to the men present here," Chowdhury told the inaugural meeting attended by a few men" (...)

India has around 2.5 million people living with HIV/AIDS -- the world's third highest caseload after South Africa and Nigeria -- with about 40 percent of those infected being women.

Activists and officials say many women have been infected after their husbands visited prostitutes. Most wives have little power to negotiate safe sex with their husbands in a largely patriarchal and conservative society, they add.

Related: Mexican migrant workers returning home with HIV (NY Times link):

"AIDS is spreading quickly in rural Mexican states with the highest migration rates to the United States, researchers say. The greatest risk of contracting AIDS that rural Mexican women face is in having sex with their migrant husbands, a new study found, and a problem that is compounded by their husbands’ refusal to use condoms."

 

 

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