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Drought May Increase HIV Risk for Women in Developing Countries

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When HIV emerged in the 1980s and 1990s, men were more likely than women to contract the virus. However, globally, the majority of adults living with HIV they are now women, according to United Nations data.

The Joint United Nations Program on HIV / AIDS (UNAIDS) reports that HIV is the leading cause of death in women ages 30 to 49 and the third leading cause of women ages 15-29 worldwide.

The relative rates of men and women who contract HIV vary widely between countries, but World Bank data suggests that, in sub-Saharan Africa, for example, more than 60% of all those living with HIV are women.

Women between the ages of 15 and 24 in this region of Africa have more than twice as likely as men in the same group to be HIV positive, according to UNAIDS.

What makes women in developing countries much more vulnerable to contracting HIV than men?

Research by Kelly Austin, an associate professor at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, suggested that droughts are a contributing factor.

The study, which appears in the journal Social Indicators Research, found that food insecurity resulting from droughts has a disproportionate effect on women’s risk of contracting HIV.

Modeling infection rates

To do this, they used a statistical technique called structural equation modeling to explore the relationship between HIV infection rates and socioeconomic and environmental factors, including continued and food insecurity, in 91 developing countries.

According to the researchers, women in these societies have little autonomy and they are often responsible for raising children, growing and gathering food, collecting firewood and fetching water. This makes them especially vulnerable to droughts and consequent food shortages.

Thus, the researchers identified four ways where food insecurity puts women at increased risk of contracting HIV:

The malnutrition, which weakens immune defenses against HIV and increases vulnerability to other diseases, such as malaria. It can also indirectly increase susceptibility to HIV. gender inequalities in terms of access to education and health care, including birth control services, which could protect women against HIV. early marriage of daughters for financial reasons, resulting in exposure to sexually transmitted diseases at an earlier age.Economic motivation to become sex workers.

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