Hesperian Health Guides

Women's equality prevents STIs

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HealthWiki > Health Actions for Women > Chapter 5: Preventing Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) > Women's equality prevents STIs


The larger problems of injustice and inequality make women more likely to become infected with STIs. For example, being poor does not spread STIs, but being poor can mean a woman may trade unprotected sex for money or other needs. Many situations can make it either easier or more difficult for women to protect themselves from STIs.

A woman may be LESS ABLE to prevent STIs if:

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Most men in her community have many partners.
She was married as a girl and is expected to obey her husband without question.
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She is a sex worker. Some men will not pay if she asks them to use a condom, or they react with violence.
She cannot read, or she has never heard of STIs.
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The government does not support affordable health services for women.
She does not give importance to her own health problems and feels ashamed to talk about her private parts.
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Her partner is abusive and often forces her to have sex, especially when he drinks.


A woman will be MORE ABLE to prevent STIs if:


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She finishes high school and can get a job to earn her own money.
She inherits property after her parents or her husband die.
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She and her partner know how to give each other pleasure and use condoms each time they have intercourse.
Her schooling included sex education.
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She gets free or low-cost health care at a clinic near her home, including STI testing as part of regular health and pregnancy care.
She believes that her own sexual health is important, and she is not ashamed of her body or her sexuality.
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She can decide when, how, and with whom to have a sexual relationship.
a woman speaking.
It’s so easy to blame an individual woman or man for getting an STI and failing to protect themselves. I like to use the "But why?" game to help people see the ways that inequality makes it harder for women to protect themselves. Then we do a yarn toss to brainstorm things to do at a community level to make things better.

Chapter 3: Gender and Health and Chapter 4: Sexuality and Sexual Health suggest many ways to improve conditions and help women prevent STIs.

Puppet theater raises awareness about domestic violence and HIV

In Lucknow, India, a group of adolescent girls uses giant puppets to speak out against domestic violence and to provide information about HIV. They perform short plays in public places and afterward speak with the audience about the rights of abused women, and what community resources are available for preventing both violence and HIV.

Puppet theater always draws a large audience, including people who would not usually stop to listen to someone giving a talk in a public place. So puppets provide important community education for people who might not have any other access to the information. Just as important, working on this project has transformed the girl puppeteers themselves. Many of them were not accustomed to speaking out in public. Now, they say they feel self-confident and committed to working for change. Their families, especially their mothers, also feel they are doing good work.

a crowd watching a puppet theater performance in a public square.