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SAHARA J. 2004 Aug;1(2):87-98.

Gender and HIV/AIDS impact mitigation in sub-Saharan Africa--recognising the constraints.

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  • 1School of Development Studies, University of East Anglia, Norwich.


In discussions of gender and HIV/AIDS, attention has focused on prevention. This is a vital area. However, we argue that there is also a need to focus more attention on the resulting impact of the epidemic, because inequalities that promote the spread of infection are also hampering containment and impact mitigation. We propose a framework highlighting the gendered constraints exacerbated by the epidemic. These constraints are reviewed under the following headings: Gender-specific constraints: stemming from the specific nature of gender relations themselves, such as the availability of labour in agriculture, business and for household tasks, as well as access to services and markets, and the incidence of gendered violence. Gender-intensified disadvantages: stemming from the uneven and often inequitable distribution of resources between men and women, including cultural/religious conventions, and the social rules and norms that regulate property rights, inheritance practices and resource endowments. Gender-imposed constraints: resulting from biases and partialities of those individuals who have the authority and power to allocate resources. These include provision of credit, information, agricultural extension and health care. The differential involvement of men and women in development programmes affects access to resources, as does political participation, including involvement in the formulation of policies aimed at poverty reduction. These constraints take us beyond gender relations and sexual behaviour. But women's lives will not change in the short term. The challenges they face in mitigating the impact of HIV/AIDS will not be addressed by focusing only on their specific vulnerability to HIV/AIDS infection. Unequal gender relations and the nature of'development' need to be changed too.

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