Why young girls are more at risk of contracting HIV?
Anybody can contract HIV, from young boys to older women to new born babies. HIV is spread from an infected person mainly through unprotected sex and direct contact with some body fluids such as blood, vaginal fluids, anal fluids and semen, to name a few.
However, studies have shown that it is young girls who are the most risk of getting infected by HIV. Why is this chomas?
Why are young girls and women more exposed to HIV infection?
Culture, poverty and gender inequality
In South Africa, many issues add to the spread of HIV. These issues include gender inequality, such as women not having the same social status as men. For example in some parts of societies, women are expected to be submissive and quiet when it comes to sex. This may stop them from getting the necessary sexual health information they need to protect themselves from HIV transmission and other STI infections. It is the opposite for men. Men are expected to take risks and be tough. Unfortunately, this may increase the exposure to HIV infection. This may also discourage them from being tested for HIV and getting the necessary treatment.
Women are at greater risk of contracting HIV
Studies show that women and girls face a greater risk of HIV infection.Did you know that there are three South African women infected with HIV for every two men infected, on average? The age group that is largely affected by this is the 15 – 24 age group, where three young women are infected for every one young man infected.
Transactional sex (when money or gifts are exchanged for a sexual relationship usually with a 'sugar daddy') may be an option for some girls, especially when faced with financial difficulties. When young girls have sex for money or gifts, they put themselves at risk of STI infections, including HIV and pregnancy. They may feel that they need to do whatever the person offering the gifts and money requests, such as having sex without using a condom. Also, the person receiving the gifts might feel the need to keep quiet if they find out that the partner is dating other people as this will mean that the gifts and money will stop coming.Having more than one sexual partner may also be influenced by gender roles.
Women and girls are taught to not question their partner once they find out that he has been cheating. The cheating may increase the risk of HIV infection because there is now an extra person involved. It may be likely that the male does not know the sexual history of the unknown woman he is cheating with, therefore increasing the chances of being infected by HIV.
Women are biologically predisposed to contracting HIV. This is because the vagina has a larger surface area that's exposed to the virus. Semen left in the vagina means a longer time of exposure to the virus for women.
Is there a solution to decreasing risk of young girls contracting HIV?
The first thing you need to know is your risk of contracting HIV and sexually transmitted illnesses (STIs) and how to protect yourself. Make sure you get tested regularly at your nearest clinic and stay protected by using condoms.
Having safe sex with any partner is important, but even more so with a partner who might have other partners. No matter what your circumstances are, you deserve to be respected by yourself and your partner. Being allowed to speak openly about safe sex should be part of any trusting relationship. Your health and safety matters.
Also remember to focus on your own future. Education does matter and if you have an opportunity to further your education in any way chomas, take the opportunity. When you have goals of your own, it's easier to make decisions that are good for you.
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