How gender equality benefits an effective HIV/AIDS response

How gender equality benefits an effective HIV/AIDS response

Gender-based discrimination and violence are amongst the root causes of new HIV infections worldwide - often affecting marginalised communities. Now is the time to implement a sustainable approach that addresses this injustice at all levels of society. 

Not only for women

When wanting to improve gender equality to reduce HIV infection rates, we often look at marginalised women. The recently published UNAIDS statistics show that although the fight against AIDS is heading in the right direction, still, every week, around 6,200 women aged 15-24 are infected with HIV. In sub-Saharan Africa, 4 out of 5 new infections among adolescents affect girls. 

In the fight against AIDS, however, gender inequality does not only relate to women. It affects all people not complying to the norms around gender identity: being born a certain gender and identifying as the opposite; gender expression: going through life acting, dressing and behaving like the opposite gender; and, sexual orientation: being attracted to the same-sex. 

Daily stigmatisation and discrimination for those not complying to society’s gender norms is a fact of life for many marginalised communities such as LGBTQ people and sex workers. On top of that, many countries criminalise self-expression of gender behaviour that deviates from the masses. Matters worsen when these marginalised groups intersect with other determinants of vulnerability characteristics such as race, ethnicity, language, (im)migrant status and health – leading to a pilling up of oppression. Gender inequality increases violence-related HIV infections and limits access to basic treatment, and is, therefore, a structural driver of the HIV epidemic. A sustainable solution is needed to eradicate this source of injustice.

Transforming gender norms

Implementing Aidsfonds’ definition of gender transformative approach (GTA) focuses on reducing inequalities and seeks long-term changes in gender relations and power dynamics at all levels of society. It requires adjustment of policies, norms and practices. This means performing a gender analysis that addresses gender relations, issues of power and violence, and tackling discrimination people face in terms of their opportunities, resources, services, benefits, decision-making, and influence. 

Gender norms shape health-seeking behaviour; uptake of HIV prevention, care and treatment services; and experience of stigma and discrimination. It is crucial to take these layered realities into consideration to create effective interventions. This entails working to promote changing gender roles and developing relationships that are fair and just in the distribution of benefits and responsibilities between men and women. Advocacy is needed on laws and policies that promote gender equality, human rights and public health. 

Get started

The time is now to reshape projects and incorporate GTA for an effective HIV/AIDS response. Here at Aidsfonds, we strive for gender equality by educating our local partners on GTA implementation in projects benefiting marginalised communities. Last week, we trained Sexual Right Centre in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, who aim to insert GTA in their organisation’s activities.  

Wish to learn more about it? Contact our Aidsfonds colleague Roanna van den Oever here

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