HIV and AIDS: Are We Turning the Tide for Women and Girls?

Article Date

08 February 2012

Article Author

By Jennifer Abrahamson

Media Contact

Anne McPherson

Vice President, Global Communications email [email protected]

Nearly two decades ago, ICRW’s research and advocacy efforts helped put HIV and gender on the map, playing a pivotal role in raising global awareness of the unique vulnerabilities to HIV infection that women and girls face. Since then, the international community has come to universally accept this wisdom. Continued research has drilled deep to expose the social and economic roots that make women and men susceptible to the disease in different ways.  

So today – 20 years later – what is happening on the ground?  Have public health and development experts successfully converted this knowledge into improving real programs in villages and towns where HIV rates are high?  

ICRW’s Director of Global Health, Katherine Fritz, was part of a team that spent the past few years investigating 31 programs across sub-Saharan Africa in an attempt to find out.   

The initiative was spearheaded by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which recognizes the many links between gender and the continuing global AIDS epidemic. Carried out by USAID’s HIV/AIDS arm, AIDSTAR-One, with the help of leading researchers like Fritz, the result is a comprehensive compendium of HIV prevention, treatment, care and support programs that are integrating multiple gender strategies into their work in Africa.  

Researchers found that innovative programs that adapt to the needs of the communities they work in – such as those that combine HIV prevention or education with income generating projects for women in poor rural areas – were the most successful. Others that proved effective approached and worked with men and women differently, in order to best reach both genders. Programs that integrated efforts to decrease gender-based violence, which is linked to the spread of HIV infection, also showed progress.

Complementing the compendium is a series of five descriptive case studies that zoom in closer on the programs and the people they help. The co-authors – including Fritz and ICRW Research Associate Zayid Douglas – look at diverse populations from female fish sellers in Kenya and genocide survivors in Rwanda to truck drivers in bustling Zambian border towns and door-to-door saleswomen in rural Mozambique.

Read our case studies:

Rebuilding Hope in Rwanda: Polyclinic of Hope Care and Treatment

Earning Their Way to Healthier Lives: Women First in Mozambique

Risky Business Made Safer: HIV Prevention in Zambia’s Border Towns

Allowing Men to Care: Fatherhood Project in South Africa

Jennifer Abrahamson is ICRW’s senior director of public and media relations.