Safeguarding women: case
studies of Jamaican women living with HIV/AIDS
National Aids Commitee, Spanish Town, Jamaica
Issues: Previous studies have shown that,
traditionally, in Jamaica, women have relied on men to initiate sex and provide
protection from STDs. While less than 1% of males routinely rely on their
female partners to provide condoms, 25% of females do, and an astounding 58% of
women never carry condoms (GOJ, 2008).
With a large number of social taboos and myths concerning sexual
practices and HIV/AIDS and other STDs, many women continue to engage in unsafe
sexual practices rather than negotiate condom use.
Description: In depth interviews were conducted with Women
Living with HIV AIDS by the Manchester Parish Aids Association in August 2006
in order to:
(a) ascertain the reactions of the women, and determine factors
and guidelines to effect positive reactions and outlooks; and
policies which would effectively encourage women to share in responsibility
for the couples' sexual health.
Lessons learned: The case studies showed that the reactions
of the women were often influenced by the perception of individual choice or
power, prior to contracting HIV. Women
who had been abused, raped or otherwise victimized by their partners/spouses,
or were infected by unfaithful spouses, often had negative outlooks. Some struggled with anger, even feeling the
need to inflict vengeance and infect other parties. Fear of anger and recrimination prevented
some women from communicating test results with current partners or spouses,
friends and family members. Thus, the possibility remained of infection of
others by infected partners.
Next steps: Health
agencies and community-based organizations should continue to focus on prolonged counseling for PLHIV, to help persons develop appropriate coping mechanisms
and appreciate their potential to continue to lead fulfilling lives. Strategies of educating women on the need for
women to take charge of their bodies, and observe safer reproductive health
practices should prove effective in stemming this problem.
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