Gender and HIVAIDS Backgrounder Released

first_imgWomen now account for a quarter of new HIV infections in Canada,with most acquiring the infection through sexual contact withmen. While the number of new infections in men has droppedsubstantially in Nova Scotia over the past decade, the numbersfor women remain about the same. The Advisory Council on the Status of Women recently completedGender and HIV/AIDS: A Backgrounder, which pulls togetherCanadian and Nova Scotia statistics about the disease. The workwas undertaken to encourage specific attention to women in NovaScotia’s AIDs strategy. “We’re releasing this publication to remind Nova Scotians thatthis disease occurs here, that it is an equal opportunity diseaseand that it is still not curable,” said Doreen Paris, chair ofthe advisory council. “We are also calling upon men to play theirrole in protecting the health of their sexual partners.” The council is distributing copies to school boards, women’scentres, transition houses and others who work in the area ofwomen’s issues. “Through the advisory council, government works with manypartners to protect women and to enhance their health,” saidCarolyn Bolivar-Getson, Minister responsible for the Status ofWomen. “This backgrounder is one piece of that important work.” More than two thirds of reported AIDS cases in women in Canadaare attributed to heterosexual contact, making preventionprograms targeting heterosexual men important. As well, in NovaScotia, half of all positive HIV tests among women are for thoseunder the age of 30. Women who use injection drugs or who are involved in the sextrade are also at increased risk. Marginalized women — women whose age, race, ethnic background,language, sexual orientation, family status or geographiclocation combines with their gender to create a doubledisadvantage — are particularly vulnerable. For example,although aboriginal women in Canada make up 3.3 per cent of thepopulation, they accounted for close to nine per cent of all newHIV infections in 1999. The disease is spreading faster among women because of factorsrelated specifically to their gender. Women, and particularlyyounger women, may find it difficult to ask for safer sex. Theirlack of awareness of their partners’ past or current sexualbehaviour also puts them at risk for HIV/AIDS. Women’s anatomyincreases their vulnerability to the disease, as do violenceagainst women and sexual violence. Gender and HIV/AIDS: A Backgrounder is available on the advisorycouncil’s website,

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