Today, HIV remains the leading cause of death among women of childbearing age and young adolescent girls. And yet, women remain the “invisible” of this disease. Today, Tuesday December 1, is World AIDS Day, an opportunity to take stock of the situation of women affected by the virus. And to recognize the various risk factors to which they are exposed.
A majority of women contract AIDS
According to the latest estimates from UNAIDS, 38 million people are living with HIV around the world, including 20.1 million girls and women. More than half of HIV-positive patients are therefore women. In sub-Saharan Africa, they account for 59% of new HIV infections. And every week around the world, around 7,000 young women aged 15 to 24 are infected with HIV.
The virus was discovered in 1983 by biologists Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier, after the contamination of several homosexual patients. At that time, we considered it a “disease ofgay men ». Those particularly affected by HIV over the past three decades have been sex workers and their clients, gay men and other men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, and transgender women. While women as such are not a key population, their risk of contracting HIV has increased. There are many causes. And even today, many underestimate the contamination of women.
Higher risk of contracting HIV
What are the risk factors to which women are exposed? First of all, their anatomy. “Women are probably more likely to become infected with HIV during any kind of sex than men due to biological factors ”summarizes the World Health Organization (WHO). Indeed, the risk of transmission of the virus from a man to a woman is about twice as high as in the other direction. Particularly because of the greater surface area of the female mucous membranes, possible micro-tears of the tissues of the vagina during penetration, coupled with the quantity and the virus content of the male fluids.
However, this biological inequality in the face of the virus does not explain everything. All of the inequalities linked to gender greatly increase the risks of contracting the virus for women. We are talking about a unequal access to education – including sex education – lack of access to information and care such as contraception.
But also, sexual violence, dependence and the economic insecurity of women are risks mostly incurred by women to contract the virus. Factors that have worsened with the pandemic.
“The COVID-19 crisis has also been a setback for the achievements in terms of equality between women and men. It has reinforced these disparities in terms of health, income, access to services, unpaid workload, status and power ”, worried UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima. in her speech on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2021
A fight that is not over
On November 17, the Paris Council voted unanimously in favor of creation of a “place for AIDS fighters” in the capital, to remind that since the first documented cases of AIDS in the late 1970s, the AIDS pandemic has claimed nearly 35 million lives worldwide.
Jean-Luc Romero-Michel, deputy for the fight against discrimination to the Mayor of Paris, and the first French politician to have revealed to be HIV-positive in 2002, declared that again today, HIV “Still stigmatizes, more than ever, drug users, gays, migrants or sex workers ”. And that in the absence of a vaccine, “the fight is unfortunately not over”, believing that if “a world without AIDS is still possible by 2030, it is thanks to the combatants” honored by this place.
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