For my final project about women in South Africa, the health issue that I want to focus on is the incidence of HIV in women, especially in young women. HIV continues to be a major global public health issue, affecting more than 35 million lives so far. Globally, 1.8 million people became infected with HIV in 2017. The area that is most infected with HIV is Africa, with more than 25 million people currently living with HIV and accounting for over two- thirds of the new cases of HIV. (WHO) While there are many efforts being done worldwide to help prevent new infections of HIV, there is still a long way to go, and caring for women, especially those of childbearing age, can be an essential key. Since only about 75% know their HIV status, women especially in places like South Africa, have more concern with contracting HIV through sexual violence or being with men with multiple partners. It is also important to look at HIV in women who are of childbearing age because they have the added risk of transmitting HIV to their child if they are not receiving treatment or they don’t even know that they are infected with HIV. (WHO, 2018) In one study, it was found that levels of unplanned pregnancy were significantly higher in HIV- positive women than in HIV- negative women, particularly among women not on antiretroviral therapy. (Iyun, 2018) Another study was done showing that in rural South Africa, women who experienced intimate partner violence and had high gender inequity in their relationships had increased incidence of HIV infection and the risk of incident HIV infection was not associated with rape by a non-partner. (Intimate Partner Violence, 2010)
The importance of addressing HIV incidence in young women can be seen from both a cultural standpoint and a public health standpoint. Even though there are many diverse cultures, religions, and traditions in South Africa, stigma still exists for those who are infected with HIV as well as in many other places all over the world. The continued incidence of HIV in South Africa can also be attributed to some aspects of their cultures. Many women in South Africa fall victim to intimate partner violence, which including rape, can spread HIV to unsuspecting women who could end up contracting and further spreading HIV to others. Before Christianity made its way to South Africa, marriage was based on polygyny where men would have multiple wives. Even though this does not seem to be as common, there are probably still people who practice polygyny, which could lead to spreading HIV among a man, his multiple wives, and possibly even his children. Similarly, cohabitation without marriage is a very common domestic living situation where the people living together could bring HIV into the mix if they are engaging in sexual relations with multiple partners. (South Africa) Looking from a public health standpoint, addressing HIV in young girls can help us get closer to reaching several of the 17 sustainable development goals including: reduced inequalities, gender equality, and good health and well- being.
“HIV/AIDS.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, July 2018, www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/hiv-aids.
Iyun, Victoria, et al. “Prevalence and Determinants of Unplanned Pregnancy in HIV-Positive and HIV-Negative Pregnant Women in Cape Town, South Africa: a Cross-Sectional Study.” BMJ Open, British Medical Journal Publishing Group, 1 Apr. 2018, bmjopen.bmj.com/content/8/4/e019979.
“Intimate Partner Violence, Relationship Power Inequity, and Incidence of HIV Infection in Young Women in South Africa: a Cohort Study.” Egyptian Journal of Medical Human Genetics, Elsevier, 16 June 2010, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S014067361060548X.
“South Africa.” Countries and Their Cultures, www.everyculture.com/Sa-Th/South-Africa.html.