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HIV/AIDS Advocacy and Women’s Rights

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Women and girls are victims of this global HIV/AIDS pandemic. The rise in women and girls’ HIV infections is very visible in recent years. There are nations where women have greater HIV infection rates than men. The rise in the number of HIV infections among women and girls has a direct correlation to violence against women and their unequal social, economic, and legal status.

The human rights of women and girls are abused. This hinders their access to HIV/AIDS information and services which include testing and treatment. Women who obtain HIV services face the risk of being ostracized as their results can be publicly disclosed by public health officials without the consent of the women.

Governments in different parts of the world have done little in combating against the abuses of the human rights of women and girls. Various policies and programs regarding HIV/AIDS are misaligned as these emphasize abstinence until marriage yet ignore the brutal realities that most men and women face. Governments permit HIV/AIDS to claim the lives of women and girls if they fail to enact and effectively enforce laws on marital rape, domestic violence, women’s equal property rights, tolerating customs and traditions that subordinate women.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is the key ingredient on women’s exposure to HIV. It is inherently dehumanizing and it also limits the capacity of women to resist sex and to insist the fidelity or condom use of spouse. The problem lies with many countries not preventing domestic violence. They do not also prosecute or punish perpetrators, or provide legal or health services to survivors. Many countries do not see the relationship of domestic violence with HIV/AIDS.

Researches have shown that domestic violence contributes to higher infection rates of HIV. A recent South African research has shown that there is a direct relation to the rates of HIV infection in women who were sexually assaulted, physically abused, or mistreated by their intimate male partners.

Women’s Property and Inheritance Rights Abuses

Sub-Saharan Africa regions deny women with their equal property rights. Many widows are barred by custom and law from inheriting property. Widows are stripped of their possessions and evicted from their lands and homes by in-laws. Women who are divorced are expelled from their homes wearing the clothes on their backs.

There is a correlation between a woman’s relationship to a man and access to property. A woman has a great possibility of losing her home, household goods, livestock, land, and other properties once the relationship ends.

This discrimination comes from customs that favor men for property ownership and inheritance. However, this is strengthened by policies and laws enacted by the government regarding divorce and inheritance.

Dangerous Customs

Local customs also increase the risk of HIV for women and girls. Although customs play significant roles in the community, the AIDS epidemic magnifies the destruction caused by women’s property rights violations. These traditional practices include widow inheritance, payment of bride price, and ritual sexual cleansing.

Women cannot easily leave abusive relationships because the man’s family has already paid the bride price. Even though the intent may be to show appreciation to the parents of the bride and strengthen relationships between families, bride price is similar as paying for the wife. Women cannot say no to sex with their husbands since they are considered as property.


The fight against HIV/AIDS is a fight that has to be fought one place at a time. Governments must create programs that do not discriminate or violate the rights of women in order to solve the global health issue which is HIV/AIDS.

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