Over 40% HIV Afflicted in India are Women
“I got HIV from my husband who never told me that he has it. Relatives hid it too. After my husband’s death, I was thrown out of the house and my parents didn’t come to my rescue”
This is the voice of a woman who contracted HIV from her husband post marriage. Though the latest government statistics and estimates show that the number of HIV positive cases in India has declined by about 60%, still two-fifths of the total number of HIV infections are among women. This really presses the fact that awareness programmes need to focus on women. Many things can be attributed to this scenario like social inequalities and low awareness. I have discussed them below:
Reasons Behind The Numbers | Women In India At Far Greater Risk of Infection
- In India, HIV Epidemic is impossible to disentangle or separate from the social and cultural values. A vast majority of women are still least powerful as major sections of Indian society advocates patriarchy.
- Women are not allowed to make choices regarding the use of condom and even to have sex. If a woman tries; she is considered to be low in morals.
- According to recent reports, about 95% of HIV positive married women in India report being monogamous i.e. they have sexual relations with only one partner. So the most likely culprit is their husband’s extramarital behavior which includes unprotected sex outside marriage and having sex with sex workers.
- Women who are domestically abused by their husbands are at more risk of contracting an HIV infection due to their husband’s sexual practices both outside, as well as inside marriage. Therefore this leaves a woman with a double hazard as she is not in control of her husband’s extramarital behavior and neither she has a say in the abusive sex practices of her husband inside the marriage.
Low Awareness & HIV Testing Considered a Taboo:
- Women don’t go out and get tested for HIV as it is considered a social stigma.
- HIV/AIDS is a silent epidemic as most of the Indians, irrespective of the gender, are still not aware whether they have the virus or not.
- According to a survey, only 4 out of 10 Indian women of reproductive age knew about AIDS. This is due to vast sections of women still being illiterate.
- As of now, the infection has expanded its boundaries by covering adolescent girls (married and single); married women of reproductive age; sexually active single women; sex workers; college and university students; pregnant women; and women survivors of sexual abuse and rape.
Blame Ultimately Falls on Women
- A study has indicated that a vast majority of people who shared their being HIV positive to their near and dear ones, only men received care. Women were discarded by their families and in-laws.
- Women who contracted HIV from their husbands are blamed for their husband’s HIV diagnosis. Nobody blames men.
- Also if a man admits to having sexual relationships with sex workers; then also a blame is put on a woman as she failed to “satisfy” her husband.
The Conclusion | Breaking Down Barriers
All this instills fear in a woman’s mind. Fear of being discarded by her in-laws. Fear of getting aggressive and unfriendly reactions from society. As a result, she fails to realize that the hollow social values of our so-called culture would ultimately lead to her doom. Even if she realizes and wants to take some steps; the fear of getting no support from her family, consequently, discourages her from taking any.
To counter this problem, first of all, strategies must be framed especially for women health care. In addition to this, education and awareness regarding AIDS must be spread across entire nation including rural and backward areas. Women must have a say in their social life.
“Finally what is required is the widening of the narrow horizons of a big chunk of Indian mindset which has made our beautiful culture an absolute mess by embroiling it with their vacuous views.”
Also check: Why India Needs Feminism? Why does India need To Embrace Feminism?