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Sexual Rights and HIV

Sexual Rights and HIV

By Kamala Sarup

Women are silent about sexual issues for many reasons. Especially women cannot request, let alone insist on using a condom or any form of protection.Lack of respect for women's sexual and reproductive rights is a big problem. Female genital mutilation, early and compulsory marriage of girl children, sexual exploitation, abuse and rape of girls and women, and the lack of any opportunity for may women to refuse unprotected sex all contribute to the high risk of HIV infection among women. And all represent clear violations of women's sexual rights.

Poor hygiene and limited health care foment STD, which strike women more than men and make HIV transmission more likely. Women must be empowered so that they are able to control their sexual relations. They also suffer violence in the denial of their sexual and reproductive and economic rights. They are generally expected to interrupt their sex lives and forego childbearing to avoid transmitting the virus.

Three main challenges-The first is the promotion of safer sexual behavior. Our challenges here are not only to help people adopt safer sex, but also to design programs of communication and education with the view to mobilize women and people. In giving emphasis to AIDS publicity, AIDS education could play very effective role in controlling the disease. Increasing awareness is just imperative among women and girls who are the risk groups in several ways. Spreading message about the use of condoms to counter the AIDS threat is equally important. This again indicates that socio-economically imbalanced girls/women.

HIV/AIDS prevention and control requires a multisectoral approach. A special focus is needed to alleviate the issue of trafficking of women. Lack of commitment and policy implementation pose as obstacles in solving the crisis.

In order to achieve the goal in reducing HIV threat, literacy rate especially for women has to be improved. AIDS counseling and follow-up should be strengthened and sexual biasness for boys over girls should be eliminated from society. Working in partnership with international organizations, government NGOs must focus on reaching the goal of AIDS prevention through information, education, condom distribution. They should plan organize an implement programs effectively. May this way we can protect our women from HIV and AIDS threat.

Women with HIV are subjected to various forms of violence and discrimination based on gender. If condom use is central to the HIV infection control strategy in South Asia, its implication in terms of the supply required to meet the demand will be huge. Actions are urgently required to protect women from the epidemic without waiting for a higher proportion of them to be infected. Access to health care is more important for South Asian women infected with HIV because of their specific health needs. Thus, the status of women is an important variable influencing the risk of HIV infection.

Much more worrying point is that a huge amount of resources will have to be spent in the prevention and care in the years to come. If the trend still continues, there is no doubt that the scenario of the problem will become even worse. To lose more lives to the HIV/AIDS pandemic would be yet another tragedy. The continent is in a chronic crisis of crippling poverty too.

Women require special and urgent consideration because of their social and sexual subordination, are disproportionately affected by the epidemic. The vulnerability of women to HIV must be understood in the broader context of deeply embedded social and gender inequalities which lie at the heart of women's inability to deal effectively with the risks and needs created by the epidemic.

Unless the interaction between HIV infection, cultural values and the rights and needs of women is recognised, the fundamental changes required to stem this epidemic will be unattainable. Women are also in a markedly disadvantaged position with respect to confidentiality.

HIV prevention efforts must continue and expand in promoting male condom use for those for whom it is feasible. Likewise, advocacy efforts should talk about a range of existing and future prevention strategies and tools, that include behavior change communication, male and female condom promotion, and emerging technologies like microbicides and vaccines.

Women still do not have equal economic or educational or occupational or social options - men have greater power than women, and the imbalance in power negatively affects women's abilities to prevent being infected. Long-term strategies will depend on improving women's economic and social status. Empowering women is no longer an option, it is essential.

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