The impact of the HIV pandemic has been far greater on women than men. There are many reasons for the vulnerability of women to HIV:
- Physical reasons– Women are more vulnerable to HIV infection than men. A woman’s vagina has a larger surface area for HIV to enter. Some sexual practices are dangerous for women as they can increase the risk of getting HIV e.g. dry sex, which can lead to vaginal tearing and can make it easier for the virus to enter the body. Rape, especially if it is violent, can also increase the risk of getting HIV, because the victim cannot make the rapist wear a condom.
- Social and economic reasons– Because women are often financially dependent on their partners, it can be difficult for a woman to tell her partner to use a condom because she may be afraid that he might reject her and leave her with no financial support. The unequal position of women in society also means that it is often difficult for women to get access to good health care and information about how to prevent HIV.
- Sexual reasons– Many men do not believe that women have the right to make decisions about their bodies and when to have sex. This makes sit difficult for women to be assertive (to make their own decisions) about sex and to demand that their partners have safer sex. Many women do not know that they have the right to refuse to have sex with their husbands. If a woman does not consent to sex with her husband, the husband can be charged with rape.