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Why are women at higher risk of HIV?

Did you know that women are more likely than men to get HIV?

There are several factors that put women at higher risk for HIV. These include gender-based violence e.g. rape or when they cannot freely choose to have safe sex, poverty, little information on how to protect themselves from HIV, and then there are the biological factors.

Biological factors in our case have to do with how women are created.

As mentioned, men can infect women more easily with HIV than women can infect men. This is mostly from vaginal sex.

It comes down to biological differences between men and women.

Here’s why:

First, the vagina has a larger surface area and that means that there’s a larger area for a woman to be exposed to semen infected with HIV. The larger surface area means that there are many cells that are exposed to the HIV virus.

Second, certain infections such as bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, and any untreated STIs increase the chances of transmission in women. When a woman has these infections and/or diseases, there are more cells that HIV can target.  

Third, going back to the large surface area, a woman with certain STIs such as genital ulcers, herpes, and syphilis may have small cuts and lesions on the vaginal area and this may allow HIV to pass through the body.

Four, HIV infections among younger women are also high and this is because they may have an underdeveloped cervix and their mucus production is low. This means they have a thinner layer of cells on the cervix and this means there’s less protection.

What about women who have sex with women?

Well the risk of HIV is lower as compared to those in heterosexual sexual relationships. However, there is still a risk because if one partner is HIV-positive, they can transmit HIV through oral sex if their partner has cuts or when kissing if the partner has bleeding gums or mouth sores.

It is also possible to get HIV from the menstrual blood of shared sex toys that are not cleaned well.  

Other ways through which this group can transmit HIV is through sharing needles or using semen that has not been tested for HIV.  

How to protect yourself

To protect yourself and others from HIV

  • Use a condom correctly
  • Ensure that your or your partner achieve undetectable levels
  • Use HIV prevention such as PrEP
  • Take PEP after possible exposure
  • Never share needs
  • Testing regularly for both you and your partner(s)

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LoveMatters Africa

Blush-free facts and stories about love, sex, and relationships