According to this position paper, published by Southern Africa HIV and AIDS Information Dissemination Service (SAfAIDS), the drivers of the HIV epidemic in southern Africa do not lie only in gender inequalities, but also in the unique intricacies of the sociocultural, economic, and political contexts of the countries in the region, which form a sharp backdrop against which the increased vulnerability of women to HIV infection must be viewed. Southern African women's lower socio-economic, political, and cultural status inhibits them from making informed sexual and reproductive health choices to prevent HIV infection. Male attitudes and behaviours, intergenerational sex involving young girls and older men, harmful cultural practices that predispose women to HIV, and gender-based violence (GBV) are pervasive in the region and are upheld by beliefs, patriarchy, and lack of accountability to achievement of gender equality commitments.
One of the areas that SAfAIDS and its partners have recognised as requiring urgent implementation in order to protect women from HIV infection is the integration of HIV and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). The lack of access to sexual rights for many women in Africa has continuously undermined efforts to address HIV by fuelling the drivers of the epidemic.
This position paper is aimed at influencing policy making by articulating the stance of civil society and communities on the inter-linkages between culture, gender-based violence (GBV), HIV, and women's rights. It looks at current interventions to address the problem, and offers recommendations for states, custodians of culture, civil society organisations, policy makers, and media organisations.
SAfAIDS website on June 7 2010.