Issue 1: Gender Dimensions of HIV/AIDS

Resource date: 1995

ICPD + 5

  • Para 68. Governments should ensure that prevention of and services for sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS are an integral component of reproductive and sexual health programmes at the primary health-care level. Gender, age-based and other differences in vulnerability to HIV infection should be addressed in prevention and education programmes and services. Governments should develop guidelines for HIV treatment and care, emphasizing equitable access, and for wide provision of and access to voluntary HIV testing and counselling services, and should ensure wide provision of and access to female and male condoms, including through social marketing. Advocacy and information, education and communication campaigns developed with communities and supported from the highest levels of Government should promote informed, responsible and safer sexual behaviour and practices, mutual respect and gender equity in sexual relationships. Special attention needs to be given to preventing sexual exploitation of young women and children. Given the enhanced susceptibility to HIV/AIDS of individuals infected by conventional and treatable sexually transmitted diseases and the high prevalence of such diseases among young people, priority must be given to the prevention, detection, diagnosis and treatment of such infections. Governments should immediately develop, in full partnership with youth, parents, families, educators and health-care providers, youth-specific HIV education and treatment projects, with special emphasis on developing peer-education programmes.

ICPD POA, Cairo, 1994

  • 7.28. The social and economic disadvantages that women face make them especially vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, as illustrated, for example, by their exposure to the high-risk sexual behaviour of their partners. For women, the symptoms of infections from sexually transmitted diseases are often hidden, making them more difficult to diagnose than in men, and the health consequences are often greater, including increased risk of infertility and ectopic pregnancy. The risk of transmission from infected men to women is also greater than from infected women to men, and many women are powerless to take steps to protect themselves.

  • 7.29. The objective is to prevent, reduce the incidence of, and provide treatment for, sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, and the complications of sexually transmitted diseases such as infertility, with special attention to girls and women.

  • 7.34. Human sexuality and gender relations are closely interrelated and together affect the ability of men and women to achieve and maintain sexual health and manage their reproductive lives. Equal relationships between men and women in matters of sexual relations and reproduction, including full respect for the physical integrity of the human body, require mutual respect and willingness to accept responsibility for the consequences of sexual behaviour. Responsible sexual behaviour, sensitivity and equity in gender relations, particularly when instilled during the formative years, enhance and promote respectful and harmonious partnerships between men and women.

  • 7.35. Violence against women, particularly domestic violence and rape, is widespread, and rising numbers of women are at risk from AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases as a result of high-risk sexual behaviour on the part of their partners.

FWCW, Beijing, 1995

  • 98. HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, the transmission of which is sometimes a consequence of sexual violence, are having a devastating effect on women's health, particularly the health of adolescent girls and young women. They often do not have the power to insist on safe and responsible sex practices and have little access to information and services for prevention and treatment. Women, who represent half of all adults newly infected with HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, have emphasized that social vulnerability and the unequal power relationships between women and men are obstacles to safe sex, in their efforts to control the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. The consequences of HIV/AIDS reach beyond women's health to their role as mothers and caregivers and their contribution to the economic support of their families. The social, developmental and health consequences of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases need to be seen from a gender perspective.

  • 108 (e ). …facilitate promotion of programmes to educate and enable men to assume their responsibilities to prevent HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases;

  • 108 (l). Design specific programmes for men of all ages and male adolescents, recognizing the parental roles referred to in paragraph 107 (e) above, aimed at providing complete and accurate information on safe and responsible sexual and reproductive behaviour, including voluntary, appropriate and effective male methods for the prevention of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases through, inter alia, abstinence and condom use;

Beijing +5

  • 12. Such obstacles as unequal power relationships between women and men, in which women often do not have the power to insist on safe and responsible sex practices, and a lack of communication and understanding between men and women on women’s health needs, inter alia, endanger women’s health, particularly by increasing their susceptibility to sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS, and affect women’s access to health care and education, especially in relation to prevention.

  • 44. The rapid progression of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, particularly in the developing world, has had a devastating impact on women. Responsible behaviour and gender equality are among the important prerequisites for its prevention. There is also the need for more effective strategies to empower women to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, to protect themselves from high risk and irresponsible behaviour leading to sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS and to promote responsible, safe and respectful behaviour by men and to also promote gender equality. HIV/AIDS is an urgent public health issue, is outstripping efforts to contain it and, in many countries, is reversing hard-won gains of development. The burden of care for people living with HIV/AIDS and for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS falls particularly on women as infrastructures are inadequate to respond to the challenges being posed. Women with HIV/AIDS often suffer from discrimination and stigma and are often victims of violence. Issues related to prevention, mother-to-child transmission of HIV, breastfeeding, information and education in particular of youth, curbing high-risk behaviour, intravenous drug users, support groups, counselling and voluntary testing, partner notification and provision and high cost of essential drugs have not been sufficiently addressed. There are positive signs in the fight against HIV/AIDS in some countries that behavioural changes have occurred among young people, and experience shows that educational programmes for young people can lead to a more positive view on gender relations and gender equality, delayed sexual initiation and reduced risk of sexually transmitted infections.