Mothers and children in Makeni, Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone women and children wait to be seen at this peripheral health unit in Makeni

HIV/AIDS Services and the Gender Gap

HIV/AIDS services include the provision of life-saving drugs that also help prevent the spread of HIV. GHLiaisons is highly involved with gender inequality when it comes to women and girls, especially those who live in East African countries. Many of our services involve working with underprivileged women to ensure that they have adequate access to healthcare, particularly when it comes to the impact of gender on HIV services in their communities.

Social Differences

Because there tend to be social differences between men and women in East African countries such as Uganda, Tanzania, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, and Zambia, women will often experience increased health risks. One of those risks is contracting HIV,. According to WHO, women in East Africa are more likely than women in other regions of the world to die of AIDS.

The impact of these gender on a community can be detrimental not only to the health and welfare of women themselves but also to the men and children in their lives – including their unborn children. This is why various HIV/AIDS services can make a positive impact on local communities and their behavior, especially when it comes to educating the women in these communities.

HIV Transmission

It’s important to note that mother-to-child HIV transmission in the regions that have received HIV services has been reduced through preventative education. In some cases, HIV transmission has been altogether eliminated. According to WHO, in 2016 nearly eight out of 10 pregnant women who were living with HIV started receiving antiretrovirals. These efforts were achieved thanks to an abundance of HIV services made available to these women.

HIV services help women and girls in East African communities better understand the facts and dangers of HIV. This type of education makes a huge impact of gender on the overall behavior of the communities in which they live.

HIV Facts Taught Through HIV Services

  • HIV is a disease that infects immune system cells. This infection results in a progressive deterioration of one’s immune system. The virus then breaks down the body’s ability to ward off other infections and diseases. Once AIDS has developed, the infected person has progressed to one of the most advanced stages of the HIV infection.
  • HIV is transmitted through a variety of ways:
  • Through unprotected sex (anal, vaginal, or oral).
  • Contaminated blood transfusions or other blood products.
  • Sharing contaminated surgical equipment and other sharp instruments.
  • Sharing tattoo equipment, syringes, and needles.
  • Transmission from mother to infant during pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding.
  • Women are taught how to prevent the spread of HIV from themselves to their families. Also preventing the spread in their communities in multiple ways.
  • Making sure they are aware of the importance of changing their sexual behavior by using condoms.
  • Informing them that they can get tested for any sexually transmitted disease, including HIV.
  • Encouraging them to avoid injecting themselves with drugs (and if they do, teaching them to ensure that their syringes and needles are sterile).
  • Making sure that any blood products or blood have been tested for HIV.
  • Encouraging the men in their lives to undergo voluntary medical circumcision.
  • If a woman already has HIV, encouraging her to start an antiretrovirals therapy program as soon as possible. This is to help prevent HIV transmission to her partner or children.
  • Combination ART or antiretrovirals therapy helps prevent HIV from starting to multiply in the body. Having access to HIV services in their communities can stop the HIV from reproducing itself. Then, their bodies’ immune cells will be able to live longer. This helps provide their bodies with needed protection against a variety of infections.
  • Providing access to HIV services to communities that have not previously had any will dramatically help to change their behavior and could actually help accelerate WHO’s goal to end AIDS by 2030. However, HIV testing services are still unfortunately quite limited. It is estimated that 40% of patients with HIV remain undiagnosed and unaware of their infection status. This is why at GHliaisons we stress the importance of educating many communities around the world, and especially in East Africa, about HIV. We educate people on the importance of changing their beliefs and behaviors and seeking out help and information through HIV services.
  • It’s a fact that gender plays a big role in local communities when it comes to the transmission of HIV. This is especially true for women who bear children. According to 2015 figures, there are an estimated 1.8 million children already infected with HIV. Most of these children live in Africa and received the infection from their mothers, who were HIV-positive while they were pregnant, during childbirth, or during breastfeeding.

Eliminating Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission is Becoming a Reality

Due to organizations like ours, community behaviors are starting to change through HIV services. These services assist with a variety of issues including preventative interventions for women, girls, men, and boys of low-income countries like East Africa.

Statistics now show that gender and female education impact these communities and encourage them to change their behaviors. As of 2015, nearly eight out of 10 pregnant women living with HIV all over the world started receiving antiretrovirals.

HIV and Children in Africa

The world has made great strides in combating HIV and AIDS. This is especially true when it comes to children under the age of 15. These HIV infections declined by 66% in 2016 (according to UNICEF). New HIV infections have also declined by 45% in adolescents ages 15-19. However, new cases do still appear and they need to be addressed.

According to UNICEF, the actual incidence rate is around 0.29 HIV infections per 1,000 uninfected children under age five. This number goes up to 0.30 for boys and 0.59 for girls ages 15-19. Even though these might sound like small amounts, they translate to hundreds of thousands of new HIV cases every single year. There were 160,000 infected children under five in 2016 and 260,000 infected children ages 15-19 all over the globe.

The HIV epidemic is not spread out equally across the world. HIV tends to be mostly centralized in Sub-Saharan Africa. This area accounts for almost 90% of all new HIV infections in children under the age of five. As for adolescents, it accounts for around one out of four of new infections overall.

Thousands of HIV Infections

These are hundreds of thousands of new HIV infections in young children each year. These infections pose a huge obstacle to ending this epidemic. This is why HIV services are so important for those who live in this region of the world. In order to end the AIDS epidemic in these countries, there is a need to speed up the progress in reducing new HIV infections. This means among all groups, especially women and mothers in these developing countries.

According to UNICEF, 27% of countries overall need to speed up their progress in HIV prevention. These countries include the world’s most populous regions, and they are also homes to nearly three-quarters of children under the age of five. These 27% of countries account for 98% of all new HIV infections in children this young.

The overall goal to eradicate AIDS by 2030 will only happen if the average rate of decline of new HIV infections among those five and under is doubled, which would require an almost 20% decline each year leading up to 2030.

HIV Services Key

In order for women who live in East African communities to make a positive impact on their children and neighbors, they need to have access to HIV services. These services should offer not only education but also health interventions for any active HIV infections. According to USAID, these services are at the forefront of the global AIDS crisis. They are also fundamental in helping to save lives all over the world.

USAID, along with many other organizations, provides leadership across the globe to help maximize the impact of HIV services offered. These organizations also support national efforts to fight the many complex challenges of both AIDS and HIV.

In partnering with East African countries, global HIV services are working to ensure sustainable, cost-effective, integrated AIDS and HIV programs that harness cutting-edge science and technological innovations. These amazing efforts are showing signs of hope for these countries struggling with infectious diseases such as HIV.

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