Women Still Most Affected by HIV/AIDS


The Bureau of Women’s Affairs has lamented that women continue to be the group most affected by HIV/AIDS, whether directly or indirectly.
At a forum Monday (March 8), at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, the Bureau and the United Nations’ Country Team in Jamaica brought together a wide cross-section of women to discuss the topic, ‘The Status of Women: The Impact on Women’s Health with Special Reference to HIV/AIDS’.
During the discussions, it was revealed that though there was a higher infection rate among men in most age groups in Jamaica, in the age cohort 10 to 29 years, the infection rate among women was higher than that of men.
Speaking at the Forum, Executive Director of the Bureau of Women’s Affairs, Mrs. Faith Webster, stated that HIV/AIDS was a gender issue, which requires an acknowledgement that there are sexed-based differences in infection rates and an understanding of the underlying causes and consequences of the disease.
Pointing to data showing that infection rate among women in the 10 to 19 age group triples that of males in the same age cohort, Mrs. Webster said that biology, sexual behaviour, social attitudes and pressures and economic power, all contribute to the spread of the disease among women.
“Women are also less able to negotiate safe sex, due to economic dependence and fear of violence and, therefore, more likely to contract HIV infection from men. Men tend to have riskier behaviour than women. This is evidenced through multiple sex partners, sex with prostitutes, casual sex, unprotected high-risk sex, use of crack cocaine and other drugs [and] same-sex behaviour among men,” she explained.
In addition, she said even where they do not contract the disease women and girls tend to bear the burden of caring for sick family members and, in stances where they get sick, they have no one to care for them.
Mrs. Webster noted that while a lot has been done to advance women’s issues in Jamaica, a lot still need to be done, especially regarding the mainstreaming of gender issues into HIV/AIDS policies.
“This will promote the development of options to accommodate sex and gender differences. A gender analysis also will not only highlight cultural and economic differences, but also how rigid gender socialisation affects the responsibilities of women and men, as well as gaps in gender-related data and information,” she added.
Tuesday’s discussion forum was part of activities to mark International Women’s Day, which was observed under the theme ‘Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities: Progress for All,’ on Monday (March 8).

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