Hesperian Health Guides

Chapter 17: HIV and AIDS

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a group of women and men from different cultures

HIV is everyone’s problem.

Millions of people are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. More and more of them are women and girls. In much of southern Africa, for every 4 men infected with HIV there are 6 women infected.

There is no cure for HIV or AIDS. But treatment can help people with HIV live longer and in better health. To provide care for those who need it and to protect ourselves and each other from HIV and AIDS, we must be willing to talk about HIV with our families and friends.

“AIDS is a disease that shines in hush and thrives on secrecy. It was prospering because people were choosing not to talk about it... I wanted to talk about AIDS so that at least my children, and yours, would be spared. They would know and have the information about AIDS before they became sexually active, and be able to talk about it.”
—Noerine Kaleeba, founder of TASO, The AIDS Service Organization, Uganda

Any woman may face HIV and AIDS

Even women who know they are at risk may be unable to protect themselves.

Most women do not think they are at risk of getting HIV infection. They may think that only homosexuals or women who have many sex partners (like a sex worker), or women who use drugs, have any chance of becoming infected with HIV. This is not true. In some communities, married women get HIV more than anyone else.

Communities that have faced HIV together have learned how to discuss HIV and are working to improve prevention and provide care and support for the infected. Women are leading many of these efforts.

This page was updated:23 Oct 2019