Women and Voluntary HIV Counseling and Testing
A Fact Sheet for National HIV Testing Day Organizers
Factors to Consider When Promoting and Providing HIV Prevention and Treatment
Sexism and AbuseSome women, including those who suspect that their partners are at-risk for HIV infection, may be reluctant to discuss condom use with their partners out of fear of emotional or physical abuse or the withdrawal of financial support.5 Furthermore, some fear their partners may interpret a positive HIV result or the simple act of testing as a sign of infidelity, which could result in relationship problems, abuse and violence.4 Many women are infected by male partners without having any awareness of being at risk of infection and are often unlikely to seek testing until symptoms appear.
Women's HealthLack of awareness of women's risk of HIV infection -- even among health care providers -- often means that women are tested and diagnosed later in their infection. Some women find out their status during pregnancy, often with limited counseling and education.
Pregnancy and Child RearingUntil recently, the desire to have children posed a unique dilemma for HIV-positive women and their partners. However, due to the availability of antiretroviral treatment in the U.S., the risk of transmission during pregnancy has almost been eliminated.3 Nonetheless, some women don't benefit from treatment because they lack access to affordable medical care and appropriate testing and counseling early in the pregnancy. For many, particularly low income women, testing for HIV may not be a priority or easily accessible4 as their time is occupied by taking care of their family and homemaking, in addition to holding a paid job.
Safer Sex ChallengesResearch has shown that many women face gender-specific factors that explain their risk-taking behavior when having sex with men. For example, some feel they have no control over their partner's use of condoms and some fail to protect themselves for HIV because they are using other contraceptive methods.4 In addition, the need for intimacy and trust and lack of assertiveness may keep women from maintaining safe sex practices.
Suggestions for Effective Services and Campaign Messages
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.