Africa: many more women than men dying of AIDS

 Empowering women to prevent HIV/AIDS has proved to be a futile exercise. The time has come to focus on changing male attitudes and behaviours says Helen Jackson, United Nation Population Fund Regional HIV/AIDS advisor. At the moment male power is almost synonymous with multiple relations and power over women, says Jackson author of 'AIDS Africa: Continent in Crisis,' In Botswana men visit places such as beer halls to educate their peers on HIV/AIDS. Discussion is not enough, attitude change in sexual behaviour in their personal lives is needed. They have to act responsibly. The situation is so badly tilted against women, according to UNAIDS, that they are now two to three times more likely to contract HIV than men. Many more African women, the UN body says, will die from AIDS in the next 10 years than men, culminating in an unprecedented gender imbalance. UNAIDS statistics show HIV prevalence rate among Kenyan women between the ages of 15 and 24 lies between 13 and 19 percent compared with men in the same age group which stands at 5 to 7 percent. As far back as 1998, a survey carried out in Kisumu had found a similarly big difference between the HIV infection rates of young men and women. Prevalence among women aged between 15 to 19 years was found to stand at 23 per cent, while men in the same age group had an infection rate of only 3.5 per cent. In Botswana 45% of women have the HIV virus compared with 19% of men. In Zambia the figure is 25% of women to 10% of men. In Rwanda it is 13% of women to 6% of men. Of the 28 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa infected with AIDS 58% are female. A UNICEF study estimates that of the 8.6 million young people in Africa aged between 15 and 24 years infected with AIDS two thirds are women. In Africa and Kenya in particular gender balance will shift with more men than women. This imbalance is only seen in times of war when there are more men than women. Source: Catholic Information Service Africa/ MARFAM Newsletter, Diocese of Johannesburg

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