Women and HIV/AIDS

Women are twice as likely to become infected with HIV during unprotected sexual contact as men. In addition, women face the risk of transmitting the disease to their child. Also, women are usually the ones who bear the greatest burden when there are infected family members. That is why this article focuses on the role of women in the case of HIV/AIDS.

Women and AIDS

In 2010, 34 million adults worldwide were infected with AIDS, half of whom were women. The role of women in this epidemic is special, women have a greater chance of being infected during unprotected sexual intercourse, the chance is twice as great. And when they are pregnant, there is a good chance that their (unborn) child will become infected. Women also often bear the greatest responsibility when caring for sick AIDS patients and orphans.

Biggest Cause of Death

AIDS is the leading cause of death for women of childbearing age worldwide. However, there are enormous differences per area, in Europe and North America the percentage of infected women is very low. However, in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean their percentage is high.

Mother-to-Child Transmission

The transmission of the disease from mother to child ( mother-to-child transmission, MTCT ) is a major problem. It has a major effect on women and contributes greatly to the spread of the disease. MTCT occurs when a woman infects her child during pregnancy, childbirth or while breastfeeding. By the end of 2009, there were around 2.5 million infected children (under fifteen), almost all of whom had been infected through their mothers. Medicines can reduce the risk of transmitting the disease from 40% to 2%, but for many people these medicines are not available. The price of medicines has now fallen sharply, but medicines still remain out of reach for some women.

Care for the Sick

In many poor countries where people are affected by HIV/AIDS, the burden of caring for patients falls to women. Caring for a sick AIDS patient can increase a person’s workload by a third. For a woman who already has to care for children, housework and work outside the home, this can lead to a workload that is barely bearable. When both parents become ill or die, the burden of caring for the children often falls on the shoulders of the eldest daughter or on those of aunts and grandmothers.


In some countries women have little freedom when it comes to sexuality. They cannot independently decide whether they want to use contraceptives and condoms. This makes their position very weak, because it makes them dependent on their partner for protection against HIV/AIDS. If that partner contracts HIV/AIDS, there is a very good chance that he will also infect his wife/girlfriend. Many women become infected by their partners and have not been promiscuous themselves.

Sexual Violence

Sexual violence, both within a relationship and outside it, also creates victims. In cases of sexual violence, the condom is usually absent and this increases the chance that a woman or girl will become infected. Rape has also been used as a weapon in wars and conflicts. A woman in an abusive relationship runs a greater risk of infection and research shows that men in an abusive relationship are infected more often than men in a normal relationship.

Equal rights

Information is an important weapon in the fight against HIV/AIDS. In addition, it is important that women have the same rights as men, when their position improves they will be able to stand up for themselves more easily. This is not yet common in many countries.

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