South African Women Remain Most Vulnerable to HIV

HIV in South Africa disproportionately affects women. In 2017, 26 percent of women were estimated to be living with HIV, compared to around 15 percent of men.[1] Among young women, HIV prevalence is nearly four times greater than that of young men. The difference is particularly acute among 10 to 19-year-olds, with 33,000 adolescent girls becoming HIV-positive in 2018, compared to 4,200 adolescent boys.

Poverty, the low status of women, and gender-based violence (GBV) contribute to this disparity in HIV prevalence. In 2017, it was estimated that around one-third of women will have experienced intimate partner violence in the past 12 months, a level that is similar across all age groups.

Humana People to People South Africa's (HPP-SA) Total Control of the Epidemic (TCE) program uses a community health worker approach to HIV. HPP-SA trains local people as Field Officers, who, supported by professional nurses, provide counseling and testing. People who test HIV positive, or who have symptoms of TB, sexually transmitted infections or other diseases receive treatment and ongoing support.

In December 2020, HPP-SA paid extra attention to educating women and young girls on World AIDS Day by hosting a special event themed, "Global solidarity, shared responsibility." One of the event speakers, Bafana Dube from a local community center, implored men to call each other out on GBV issues. He asked the community to work together and share the responsibility of raising their children, pleading with parents to discourage young women from entering "blesser-blessee" arrangements, a form of transactional sex in which older rich men entice young women with money and expensive gifts in exchange for sexual favors.

Dube also condemned acts of discrimination, pleading with the community to accept and love people living with HIV.