For every two men with HIV one woman is infected in Colombia, and this figure is steadily worsening, announced the UN and Colombia’s Ministry for Social Protection on Thursday.
Two decades ago, for every 13 men with HIV one woman was infected in Colombia.Today however, statistics show the concerning evidence that that ratio is one female Colombian infected to every two male.
The UN Population Fund and the Ministry for Social Protection conducted two recent studies – one among Colombian women in general and one among sex workers – to establish where women in the country are most vulnerable to the disease, reported newspaper El Tiempo on Thursday.
According to the Fund’s HIV/AIDS adivsor, Martha Lucia Rubio, the result from the first study revealed that Colombian women are at a high degree of vulnerability because they fail to protect themselves adequately.
Rubio stated that one of the reasons for this is that female sexuality has, throughout the country’s history, been dominated by the family group, the woman’s partner and the health authorities to such an extent that women no longer perceive it as naturally belonging to they alone.
Interviews conducted with Colombian women living with HIV revealed much of a patriarchal and sexist mentality that can account for the deteriorating situation and the increase in HIV infections among women.
One interviewee said that Colombian girls are often pressured into sex with their boyfriends at a very young age, they grow up learning that their man will leave them if they do not sleep with him. Men are reluctant to use protection and women too frequently yield.
The interviewee claimed that women such as herself, living with HIV, feel guilt and shame and are concerned that admission of their infection will result in them being branded as prostitutes.
The study also revealed that male infidelity was a recurrent issue (one largely tolerated when concerning unfaithful men but not in the case of unfaithful women). Women believe that they are not at risk from HIV when with a stable partner and the use of protection among couples is extremely low.
The study highlighted that due to female economic dependency and a lack of sex education, Colombian women are more preoccupied with preventing unwanted pregnancies than avoiding HIV.
Researchers claim that generally, despite education campaigns, many of the women interviewed for the study had little faith in Colombia’s medical institutions. The women detailed negligence and indifference of health personnel as well as inadequate instruction and the denial of HIV tests as the main reasons for their lack of faith.
Since official records began in the 80s, there have been 64,729 cases of AIDS registered in Colombia. According to government records, in 2008 alone there were 4,250 cases registered.
The vast majority of HIV cases in Colombia were transmitted through sexual contact.