Gender and HIV & AIDS

Why, after 20 years of international responses to the HIV/AIDS epidemic are infection rates still on the increase? Why are the numbers of women living with HIV increasing faster than the number of men? HIV/AIDS is not only driven by gender inequality - it makes gender inequality worse, putting women, men and children further at risk. What can be done to address a problem entrenched in this inequality, denial and stigma? International experience demonstrates that an approach which transforms gender relations is needed to effectively tackle the epidemic.

This pack explores these questions with an Overview Report covering the main issues and giving recommendations; a Supporting Resources Collection summarising key texts, case studies, practical tools and training manuals; and an In Brief with three short articles on the theme.

Gender and HIV & AIDS Cutting Edge Pack - Overview Report

Many approaches to combat the spread and impact of HIV/AIDS have failed to take gender differences and inequalities into account. Some have reaffirmed ideas of female passivity and male dominance in decisions on sex and reproduction. Others have responded to the different needs and constraints of women and men, but failed to challenge the gender status quo. This Overview Report analyses why and how HIV/AIDS is now disproportionately affecting women, as individuals and in their roles as mothers and carers. It explores new gender-sensitive approaches to fighting HIV/AIDS and suggests that in order to be effective, it is necessary to deal with the inequalities that both drive and are entrenched by the epidemic.

Recommendations from the Overview Report

Use a gendered human rights framework: Various conventions and declarations provide useful frameworks for action which strongly emphasise sexual and reproductive rights along with broader social, economic and political rights. For instance, specific recommendations in the Barcelona Bill of Rights (see Supporting Resource Collection for a complete list of recommendations) include but are not limited to the right to:

  • Sexual and reproductive health services, including access to safe abortion without coercion.
  • Access user-friendly and affordable prevention technologies, such as female condoms and microbicides, with skills-building training on negotiation and use.
  • Choose to disclose their status in circumstances of safety and security without the threat of violence, discrimination or stigma.

HIV/AIDS policy and programmes must be informed by the complex and diverse lived realities of women, men and children:

  • The people most affected by any development issue must be an integral part of the process of defining the problem and finding solutions. Development initiatives should therefore start with their priorities.
  • Involve women and men living with HIV and those most vulnerable at all levels of policy, planning and programmes.
  • Acknowledge and do not stigmatise the sexuality of young people, women, men who have sex with men, lesbian, bisexual and trans-gendered people, older people, and people with disabilities.

Change or transform unequal power between men and women to create a context where women have equal power and both women and men are less vulnerable:

  • Recognise that although the empowerment of women is an important goal of HIV/AIDS interventions, the transformation of gender relations is needed before empowerment is fully realised.
  • Involve men in HIV/AIDS interventions that challenge the gender status quo because their involvement is crucial in transforming gender relations and because gender roles and expectations also put them at risk.
  • Ensure that interventions with men do not compromise women’s rights, reaffirm stereotypes, or replace working with women. 
Gender and HIV & AIDS Cutting Edge Pack - Supporting Resources Collection

By directing practitioners to useful information sources and examples on gender and HIV/AIDS, this Supporting Resources Collection seeks to contribute to a better understanding of how incorporating gender awareness into approaches to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic greatly improves their chances of success. The collection features key texts which discuss different strategies that have been employed to combat the epidemic and help those affected and offer recommendations for policymakers and practitioners. It also gives practical examples of innovative approaches from around the world, aiming to strengthen capacity building, advocacy, service delivery, and research through explicitly addressing gender inequality. Summaries of operational toolkits and guides as well as information about courses, useful websites, networking and contact details for organisations from around the world specialising in gender and HIV/AIDS are also offered.

Gender and Development In Brief ‘Gender and HIV & AIDS’ – edition 11

In Brief is a six page newsletter that aims to stimulate thinking on a priority gender theme. This edition explores gender inequality as a major dynamic when studying the relations between gender and HIV/AIDS. It is composed of an introductory article providing an overview of the issues and of two case studies.

One case study describes the work of the International Community of Women living with HIV/AIDS (ICW), an international network run for and by HIV-positive women, which addresses inequality, denial and stigma starting from the everyday realities of people's lives and with the priorities of positive women.

The second case study explains the approach of the Brazilian organisation Instituto PROMUNDO which aim to work with young men to reflect on and re-evaluate their attitudes and behaviour towards women in their effort to change men’s attitudes and behaviours that constitute such a driving force behind the HIV/AIDS epidemic.