Girls and the BudenJden of HlV/AlDS

Citation:
E.N. PN. "Girls and the BudenJden of HlV/AlDS." The Contract. Vol 10 (2007):12.

Girls and the Buden of H'lV/AlDSI By Prof Ngugi

Aids and HIV have increasingly become dreaded words
in the household in the last twenty years. Nearly
everyone, especially in Africa has lost a relative, a
friend, a workmate or all of these. Women and girls bear the
brunt of the scourge. The HIV infection is five times higher in
girls of ages 15-24 years, as compared to males of the same
age group, according to the Kenya Health Demograpllic
Survey (2003).
HIV prevalence for women aged· between 15-19 years is 3
per cent. compared to 0.5 per cent for men of the same age
group (KDHS).
When the age bracket is raised, that is, 15-49 yeas, the
male/female ratio is 1.9:1. Thus, girls and women degenerate
to Aids, premature deaths and more orphans.
There are several major reasons for HIV vulnerability among
girls and women:-
o The under developed reproductive system of young
females facilitates faster HIV transmission.
o Younger women have larger surface that receives the
male fluids
o Many women, regardless of age, have little or no social
economic power.
o Many of them do not possess negotiation skills for safer
sex practices.
o Others do not even recognize their vulnerability due to
lack of exposure to both formal and informal HIV/Aids
education.
o Cultural practices such as dowry demands, female
circumcision, wife inheritance and wife sharing place
women at higher risk levels and serious health problems
like bleeding, sepsis, subsequently obstructed labour,
rapture of uterus, fistula and death to the baby, mother or
both.
o Society places the role of caring for the sick with girls and
women. The majority of caregivers are grandmothers
and young' girls suddenly thrown into parenthood
with no financial or psychological support. In despair,
many of them end up in the streets as beggars or
child sex-workers, further exposing themselves to
HIV/Aids, other sexually transmitted diseases and
unwanted pregnancies. Without care and guidance,
their siblings too follow suit, thus perpetuating
poverty.
Sadly too is the ever-rising numbers of heinous crimes
of rape, defilement and incest. Women and girls who are
generally physically abused are more vulnerable to sexual
abuse and subsequent HIV infection. Yet there are only
a few centers providing holistic post-rape care including
post (rape) exposure prophylaxis for HIV transmission.
In view of the high level of HIV transmission and impact
of Aids, Government, Private Sector and Civil Society
must care enough first to advocate for targeted HIV/Aids
prevention, control, care and support interventions at
individual, family, community and workplace levels.
There is also need to mount holistic care programmes,
including treatment of opportunistic infections, ARVs,
counseling, spiritual and social support that produces
positive results and gives people the opportunity to
continue with life and living that is of quality - in their
professions, enterprises and as housewives.
Studies have shown that when women test HIV positive
they face comparatively more stigma and discrimination.
Some of them are disinherited and thrown out of their
marital homes when their husbands depart. They are
seen as "those who killed our son" This is a great barrier
to HIV prevention and an abuse of human rights.
Those infected or affected, and in particular women and
children, need someone responsive and engaging. And
this is the responsibility of Government,
Private Sector, Civil Society and all of us
individually and collectively, Otherwise,
as Will Rogers said, "We have no right to
consume happiness without producing
it."
In conclusion, strive to bring a smile to
HIV positive girls, women and careers by
your deeds and protect the 93 per cent
whodo not have the Aids virus.
Prof Ngugi (second right) with other distinguished gu,ests
during a Women Aids run launch.
Prof Ngugi is a Director, International
Women's Aids Run and an accomplished
Researcher on HIV/Aids issues and also
a renowned lecturer at the University of
Nairobi

THE CONTRACT . 01l1~
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