Insights on Why Young Women are at High Risk of HIV Infection

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Insights on Why Young Women are at High Risk of HIV Infection

Insights on Why Young Women are at High Risk of HIV Infection

The faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering at the University of Zululand recently hosted a webinar on “Insight on why young women are at high risk of HIV Infection”

The Deputy Vice Chancellor Research and Innovation Professor Nokuthula Kunene gave her welcome address, she started off by acknowledging that this is a very important issue. saying that this is a very important issue  “In today’s webinar we will be advised on insights why women are at higher risk of HIV . All young women attending this webinar will benefit and they will know how to take precaution. This webinar is equally important to young men as well.  According to the study that was conducted by World Health Organisation in 2020 HIV and AIDS related deaths in South Africa reached seventy one thousand nine hundred and six . Also, the fact that South Africa is ranked number nine in the world. Therefore, this shows how important it is for us that we protect ourselves from this disease. We can only do this when we are well informed.” Said prof Kunene.

Evidence by the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) consortium of South African shedding new light on why young women in South Africa have high rates of HIV infection. Dr. Salim Abdool Karim, professor of Epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and director of CAPRISA, led the research team

The guest speaker for the day was, Dr. Sinaye Ngcapu,UNIZULU alumna who  is an infectious diseases scientist based at the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) at CAPRISA Mucosal Immunology Laboratory, Durban, South Africa. Dr Ngcapu’s main research focuses are on characterizing the earliest immune responses and the potential mucosal risk factors involved in susceptibility and protection to HIV infection in the genital mucosa.

Dr Ngcapu started off by giving a global HIV epidemic briefly. “In 2021 we saw an increase on people living with HIV from thirty-seven million 38.4 million. Despite having ARVs that have changed the face of AIDS from a killer disease to one that is chronic and manageable. We continue to see at  least six hundred and fifty thousand people dying from HIV related causes in 2021 alone .We still have a continuing rise of new infections. Ait the moment we are sitting at 1.5 million just the new infections from last year. This was mainly driven by the shifting focus ; the attention was shift towards COVID for  the past three years.” explained Dr Ngcapu.

According to Dr Ngcapu  fifty percent of infections worldwide occur in women. He said that women tend to be more venerable to HIV. South Africa accounts for 19%of all people living with HIV worldwide. Women acquire HIV five to seven years before men and they are eight times more likely to be eight times likely to be infected than their male counterparts.

Who is infecting who?

The insights that were shared by Dr Ngcapu is that

  • Older men are the drivers of HIV infections into younger women, because younger women tend to acquire HIV and this HIV is usually associated with a relationship with an older man
  • When the young women are older and they want to settle, they tend to look for partners who are similar age – try and partner up with someone who is 25 or 26 years
  • If men were having sex with people of similar age , HIV would have ended because dating a person of similar age, you grow up together and end up dying without infecting the young ones, But the case is that older men date younger women and younger women spread LHIV via that

Behavioural Risk factors for HIV infection in women that increase the chances of women in acquiring HIV

  • Pressure on young women set by society that young women should have a certain standard; this societal pressure opens a  window for those young women to be violated. Relationship with older men take place
  • Majority of older men tend to dictate when to use a condom. If a man does not want to use a condom, then the woman is forced into having unprotected sex.
  • Multiple concurrent partners
  • Fewer years of schooling and lack of food security
  • Virginal douching for hygienic purposes and for sexual enhancement .they don’t want to please themselves a woman but to please the men that they are sleeping with. Women do this through various methods like tightening pills, umchamo wemfene, snuff etc.. These things do a lot of damage. They do more harm than good. Damage the epithelium that is a protection from pathogens from entering into blood stream.

-Precious Shamase

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