HIV and AIDS research has come a long way since the world first began to recognize HIV and AIDS as a problem in the 1980s. However, in much of the world, HIV and AIDS are still significant problems for much of the population. In the United States, HIV and AIDS are often associated most heavily with homosexuality and, in particular, homosexual men; however, there are many women infected with HIV.
This research will investigate a number of questions regarding the intersection of gender and HIV-positive status. Because the link between the male homosexual community has been thoroughly studied, this research project will focus on the impact that HIV status has on women, particularly young women, throughout the world. Weiss et al. write, “People aged 10-19 years currently comprise 20% of the world's population. Recent data indicate that up to 60% of all new HIV infections are among 15-24 year olds, with females outnumbering males by 2 to 1. Social, cultural, and economic forces exist which result in gender differences in sexual experiences and expectations, as well as the ability to adopt HIV/STD preventive behaviors the power imbalance characteristic of gender relations among adults has many of its roots in childhood and adolescence” (Weiss, Whelan, and Gupta). The primary focus of this study will be to examine the experiences and effects of HIV and AIDS on women in the United States with women in South Africa; the high prevalence of HIV infection in women in South Africa has been well-documented by researchers in recent years, and the numbers on these rates of infection are more reliable than the numbers available for other countries that also have extremely high rates of infection.
In addition to the effects of HIV-positive status, the research project will examine the ways in which women are commonly infected by HIV. Because female homosexual activity has extremely low rates of transmission of the disease, there are often other forms of violence involved that lead women to infection with HIV (Berer and Ray). Institutional violence against women and transmission rates will be investigated, particularly focusing on women who became infected at a young age.
As Weiss, Whelan and Gupta note, rates of infection for women are rising, and women are becoming infected at a much younger age on a global scale. The reasons for this disturbing trend are many, and they must be closely investigated to discover why women are falling prey to this illness at higher rates than before. Because of the nature of HIV and AIDS, they are becoming infected by men; the question is, however, whether men are knowingly and uncaringly infecting women with this devastating virus, or whether ignorance and lack of education plays a larger role in transmission rates. Lowering the rates of transmission of HIV and, by default, the incidence of AIDS should be a global goal. Understanding how the virus is spread and the sociological motives that prompt the spread of the disease can help slow and eventually halt the spread of HIV and AIDS while researchers continue to work towards a vaccination and a cure for the disease. If a cure is not found, however, understanding the nature of transmission and the reasons why HIV spreads so rapidly to at-risk populations like young women and children will be important for the survival of the next generation of individuals.
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Gupta, Geeta Rao. "Gender, sexuality, and HIV/AIDS: The what, the why, and the how." Can HIV AIDS Policy Law Rev, 5. 4 (2000): 86--93. Online.
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Weiss, Ellen, Daniel Whelan and Geeta Rao Gupta. "Vulnerability and opportunity: adolescents and HIV/AIDS in the developing world. Findings from the Women and AIDS Research Program."Washington DC International Center for Research on Women [ICRW] 1996., (1996): Online.