XVIII International AIDS Conference

Abstract

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Safeguarding women: case studies of Jamaican women living with HIV/AIDS

L. Davis

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
(b) Determine 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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