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A 65-year-old Malawian woman with six of her nine grandchildren, whose parents have died of AIDS (UNICEF/HQ93-0757/Andrew)
food security


Gender inequality is one of the driving forces behind the spread of HIV. In many places, HIV infection rates are three to five times higher among young women than young men.

This disparity can be partly explained by biological factors, which make women more vulnerable to HIV, especially in youth and adolescence. However, it also reflects a number of prevailing cultural factors: men are more dominant, they tend to choose younger women, and tradition and social pressures limit women's ability to express their wishes regarding their sexuality, their choice of sexual partners and their ability to demand protected intercourse. Taken together, these factors increase women's risk of contracting HIV.

Gender inequalities also make women more vulnerable to the effects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Rural women's domestic workloads tend to increase, as they are often the care providers when household members are sick. In addition, access to productive resources, including land, credit, training and technology, frequently favour men.

As the household asset base dwindles and more members become sick, women's access to scarce resources is further diminished. Moreover, following the death of a spouse, a widow may lose access to household and productive resources such as land, resulting in further impoverishment.

related links
culture, agriculture & rural development: a view from FAO's Population Programme Service
population and gender in rural societies from the perspective of FAO's Population Programme Service
FAO SD Dimensions
more FAO publications

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