AIDS study urges women be empowered to reduce vulnerability

Updated: 2010-07-27 09:19
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BEIJING - A study on the vulnerability of Chinese women to contracting AIDS, presented here Monday, stressed the imperative to empower less-educated and poor women to reduce their vulnerability.

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The study was conducted by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and consigned by UNAIDS and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).

The study, run from October 2009 to January 2010, interviewed 857 people living with HIV, roughly 80 percent being women, either through face-to-face interviews or using questionnaires.

Bu Wei, the researcher and a professor with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said a striking finding was that a significant number of rural women or women of ethnic minorities living with HIV knew little about AIDS-related laws and policies due to illiteracy.

"They don't know how to protect themselves with laws and what rights they are entitled to," said Bu.

Previous studies found that women were more susceptible to HIV infection because of gender inequality and lack of gender-specific laws and policies to protect them from HIV, giving rise to issues such as no bargaining power with respect to condom use.

The study gives policy suggestions to empower vulnerable women, such as providing them with short-term literacy education, informing them of knowledge about AIDS prevention and treatment.

There are also suggestions to make women better-off by teaching them specific know-how such as filling out application forms for micro-financing.

Bu said the study would later be revised to make policy suggestions more specific and be submitted to relevant government authorities, hopefully, to influence policy-making.

China now has an estimated 740,000 people living with HIV. According to China's health ministry, the male to female ratio among people living with HIV has turned from 5:1 in the 1990s to 2:1 in 2007.

Also, according to the ministry, among people who contracted HIV through sexual transmission, women's share of those with the disease has climbed from 44.1 percent in 2001 to 55 percent in 2004.