Senegal: More Women Living With HIV/AIDS
December 18, 2002
Women in Senegal are finding themselves at the heart of the HIV/AIDS risk pool. In 14 years, the number of women living with HIV/AIDS has almost quadrupled, while the proportion of men having the disease has not even doubled.
Recent UNAIDS and World Health Organization reports show that Senegal, which had succeeded in lowering the incidence of AIDS from 1.7 to 1.4 percent in 2002, is facing a rapid infection rate among women. Estimated at only 9,108 in 1988, the number of Senegalese women living with HIV/AIDS has reached 35,945 in 2002. During the same period, the number of men living with the virus has risen only from 24,048 to 41,326. Today 77,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS, and, in 2001, some 4,700 AIDS-related deaths were recorded in Senegal.
Aminata Toure, head of the Gender and Human Development Program for the West African regional office of the UN Fund for Women's Development, said, "Women affected by HIV/AIDS are often not responsible for their illness. They do not have the right to refuse risky sexual relations and are often the victims of irresponsible acts committed by others." "Some men continue to have sex with their wives even when they know they're infected," she said. Toure is calling for a revision of certain provisions of Senegalese family law that make men heads of households.
The economic dependence of women on men increases the burden of the epidemic, according to Marieme Soumare, the coordinator of the Association for Women at Risk of AIDS, a nongovernmental organization. Soumare, whose mission is to assist women at risk, such as sex workers and women whose marriages have ended, also blames "the social and religious conditions in Senegal," which compel "women to accept risky sexual relations." "Poverty is the root of the problem, and women constitute the poorest segment of the Senegalese population," Soumare said.
Inter Press Service
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This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.