Young Women at the Forefront of an Epidemic: How does HIV/AIDS Affect the Young Women of South Africa?

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  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.

 

Taking Action!

“What we have learned is that the solution lies with the concerned population group itself. The adolescent girls and young women, I think they have to be at the center of any decision-making about their own lives.”

  • 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!

5 Comments

5 comments

  1. Hi Falon. As I review your project, I am struck by how the perceived value of women and girls is placing them in situations that are exacerbating the HIV/AIDS crisis. I believe your solution geared to improving education for women and girls is a key factor for improving this issue and other demographic issues in South Africa. I am also curious about the role of economic inequality in South Africa. Would greater income equality help to prevent this sexual violence and to protect women and girls?

  2. Hi Falon!!! I believe your solution of making a legislation that would make contraceptives more accessible to women and clinics available to women and girls infected by HIV/AIDS would be a major contribution to the issue. With a new legislation these women and girls can be safer and for those who are already suffering from HIV/AIDS can get proper treatment from clinics to ensure their physical health. However, it would also be helpful for these clinics to focus on their mental health as well.

  3. Hi Falon! I really appreciate your project and how it brings light to this important issue. I think that many people in first-world countries disregard the ‘global south’ when talking about politics, and sexual/reproductive health is not exempt from this – especially because it affects so many young women in Africa. I agree with your solutions, which are very sound and would be effective.

  4. Hi Falon, your project was super interesting. I watched a Netflix show called “Inside the world’s Toughest Prisons”, and the episode about Lesotho really stressed the treatment of women in South Africa. Women were treated as second-hand citizens, with little regard for their rights to life and consent. The issue of women’s treatment is generational, just like you said, and solving the Aids crisis in Africa will take time. Overall, I thought your project was very well done and informative about this important issue.

  5. Hey Falon!! I think this is such a great research project, and you have some incredible insights, thank you for sharing all of this! I think that all of your proposed solutions were extremely thoughtful; however, I believe that one of your best proposed solutions was making education in schools more accessible for young girls. With this opportunity, girls would be less likely to fall victim to dangerous situations during the day where they could be trafficked, and they would also become more independent and self-thinking, meaning they would stand up for their health more.

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