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Stamping Out Gender Discrimination
to Prevent HIV/AIDS
|by Anirudha Alam|
Gender discrimination saps social consistency jeopardizing health and educational development. It is increasingly recognized as a key factor that makes women gravely vulnerable to AIDS and STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections). Improving and intensifying poverty reduction strategies pragmatically, overall development programs should be en-gendered. Otherwise development achievements may be endangered failing to contain epidemic.
Approximately 17.7 million women were living with HIV/AIDS in 2006 all over the world. Multiple vulnerabilities like social, cultural, economical and biological factors intertwined as a vicious circle may make prevalence sky-high anytime among women in the developing countries of Asia. So we have to raise a clarion call on combating the spread of epidemic through ensuring gender equality.
Gender discrimination promotes unequal access to resources and opportunities, sexual violence, practice of unprotected sex, women trafficking and women's paltry representation and participation in social development activities. All of this result in power disparities that characterize personal relationships between male and female undermine the development of not only women but also a nation to a great extent. In this context, capitalizing on capacity building initiatives for vulnerable women encompassing sensitization, training & orientation, exchanging information, experience & views and networking may play an important role to reduce the incidents of HIV as a whole.
Having significant and multifaceted impact on public health, education, technology, business and administration sector as well as on demography, household, macro economy and society on a great scale, HIV/AIDS continues to spread in Asia and the Pacific. Comprehensive HIV/AIDS prevention programs have been initiated successfully in some countries. Nonetheless several grave factors like illiteracy, gender inequality, unprotected extra marital sexual behavior, increasing use of intravenous drugs, isolation from generic health care services as well as lack of outreach treatment and care services are contributing to the spread of HIV/AIDS gradually from most-at-risk population to the general population. As a result, the number of HIV infections among women is increasing day by day. This is why focusing very appropriately and timely on the importance of women empowerment, policy makers should be made gender sensitized necessarily.
Adopting an inter-sectoral approach to gender equality and establishing links between gender, development and HIV/AIDS, vulnerable nations have to have technical supports to confront epidemic. There is no alternative to integrate gender into such major development areas as good governance, poverty alleviation, disaster management & recovery, sustainable environment promotion, information & development communication (IDC) as well as HIV/AIDS prevention.
An in-depth study entitled 'The impact of women empowerment on HIV/AIDS prevention in Bangladesh' conducted by BEES (Bangladesh Extension Education Services) indicates that women are mostly vulnerable to HIV/AIDS due to their inherited conservative behavior, beliefs in superstitions and religious dogmas. They are deprived of enjoying their minimal rights as well. Consequently they are affected by gender discrimination severely. A recent survey initiated by Rainbow Nari O Shishu Kallayan Foundation showed that about one-thirds young women (15-25 years) had heard of HIV/AIDS with poor knowledge to protect themselves from AIDS/STIs.
HIV/AIDS epidemic is mounting all over the world especially in the developing countries being the greatest impediment to human development. Young girls and women are greatly vulnerable due to their lack of power and means to protect themselves from practice of unsafe sex and ignorance as regards reproductive health. Through a gender lens, multisectoral development strategies should be both pro-poor and pro-women supporting the integration of HIV/AIDS prevention into the development planning activities. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are intended to halve extreme poverty and hunger by 2015. So in the course of reducing poverty, promotion of gender equitable behaviors through gender awareness will be able to contribute to reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS as per the desired achievement.
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