Young women in South Africa are more susceptible to getting infected by HIV than their male counterparts*
“AIDS in Africa is one of the biggest humanitarian disasters of our time, two-thirds of all HIV-infected people worldwide are Africans.”
What’s going on?
As a nation included in the “HIV Belt”, South Africa is one of the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa most affected by HIV/AIDS, but what’s more concerning is the disparity in the impact the virus has on women. Women in South Africa account for 63% of infections due to to social inequalities, rape, and other forms of sexual violence. Among these women affected, adolescent women and young girls are most vulnerable. Due to the attitudes and toxic climate surrounding womens specifically in Sub-Saharan Africa, young girls are often both unprotected and discouraged to take safe steps in avoiding their contact with HIV/AIDS. One of the leading forms of contact with the virus is relationship violence where young girls are either discouraged or pressured into not using contraceptives by their partners. This negative atmosphere for young women instills fear and compliance, where they often don’t use the proper protection to prevent infection. As young girls are often pressured into forgoing contraceptives altogether or suffer from non consensual acts of sexual violence, proper pediatric healthcare system aren’t accessible to them. Therapists and medical professionals aren’t available to assist young women in the education and treatment of HIV/AIDS, contributing to the continuation of infection rates. As young women aren’t being educated on the virus and how to prevent it more and more women continue to be uninformed. If efforts are concentrated on combating HIV/AIDS among women, Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole could possibly see the end of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
- Health care officials specifically dedicated to young women and HIV: Currently, there are not proper pediatric services in place to ensure both the physical and mental health of girls in South Africa. HIV/AIDS is not only a condition that has physical parameters, it severely affects the mental health of young girls as a large percentage of infection rates result from sexual violence. It is clear that even though HIV cases in Sub-Saharan Africa make up 10% of all cases in the world, young women make up a large percentage of this statistic—meaning that if care is centered around young girls, the rates of HIV could significantly decrease.
- Legislation that would make contraceptives more accessible to women and clinics available to women and girls infected by HIV/AIDS: Gender inequality is a debilitating social system in Sub-Saharan Africa for young/adolescent women. The poor treatment and normalized violence of women is a social construct in these regions, meaning that young girls are isolated when it comes to social outreach or medical help when confronted with HIV/AIDS (on top of this healthcare is usually discouraged). The only way to solve this is for mandatory action to be put in place through legislative reform. This could mean public access to contraceptives and free clinics.
- Make schools more accessible to young girls and make social organizations available to young women above the school-age: Research has shown that schools, for example, are a “social vaccine” to HIV/AIDS for adolescent girls. Schools not only allow for a physical escape for young girls, but its cognitive effects also help adolescent women with either reconciling or prevention methods for HIV/AIDS. School alone enhances important behavior abilities that assist with social judgments and actions. This may mean that a young girl is able to discern information about HIV/AIDS or have the knowledge to avoid a situation that threatens the presence of HIV/AIDS. However, this shouldn’t be restricted to young girls, young women should have secondary opportunities at educational institutions or programs as well. A solid educational system will ensure that women and young girls are aware of the presence of HIV/AIDS, how to react to it, and most importantly, Southern Africa could have a new generation of educated women to rise above the current social systems.
How can you help?
Here are a few questions to reply to in the comment section!
Which of my proposed solutions do you think will be most effective in lowering infection rates?
What do you think success in combating HIV/AIDS would possibly look like in the future?
What types of legislation will benefit young women in South Africa threatened with HIV/AIDS
My Works Cited can be found here!