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African women with HIV

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: (Published 23 December 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:1543

Faith based answers might ease the social problems that lead to AIDS

  1. William Rankin, president (,
  2. Charles Wilson, chairman
  1. Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance, PO Box 29110, San Franscisco, CA 94129-0110, USA

The international AIDS conference held in Durban earlier this year made the world aware of the global HIV catastrophe and of the need to prevent vertical transmission from mother to child. The fact that women are vulnerable to HIV infection in the first place must be of equal concern. Like women elsewhere, African women are stultified by circumstances largely beyond their control. These include sexually transmitted infections, sometimes associated with “dry sex” practices, and myths touting sex with a virgin as a cure for male HIV infection. The culture of silence surrounding sexual practices in general, the stigma of AIDS, women's lack of control over their bodies, and vulnerability to dispossession by a vexed husband or sex partner are no help. Low literacy rates, lack of information, limited choice, and little access to paid work outside the home result in morbid dependency and crushing poverty that are terrible burdens. Religious leaders and traditional healers should be allies of women, delivering educational and support services against HIV, and strengthen public influences for …

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