Girls eight times more likely than boys to be HIV positive
Violent partners‚ older men and the use of hormonal contraceptives are stated as some of the factors why South African girls are eight times more likely than boys in the same age group to be HIV positive.
Verifying figures quoted by deputy president and chairperson of the South African National AIDS Council Cyril Ramaphosa‚ Africa Check was able to source some reasons why girls aged between 15 and 19 years had a higher HIV prevalence than their male counterparts.
Director of research at the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute‚ Professor Sinead Delany-Moretlwe‚ said behavioural factors play a role but added that girls in the age group 15 to 19 are also affected by biological and sociological factors.
“Immature genital tracts‚ greater use of hormonal contraceptives and pregnancy increase susceptibility to HIV infection. Some of the women have violent partners who are less likely to use condoms‚ more likely to have multiple sex partners and to be HIV positive‚” said Delany-Moretlwe.
Sintha Chiumia from Africa Check said more than 38‚000 household members were interviewed with 3‚000 young people between 15 and 19 tested for HIV. Based on this‚ 5.6% of the females and 0.7% of the males in this age group in South Africa were estimated to be HIV positive‚ working out to an eightfold difference between the sexes.
Professor Olive Shisana‚ co-chair of the International Aids Conference‚ said that women in the 15 to 19 age group have a higher HIV prevalence because young women engaged in sex earlier and with older men.
Shisana said communities had to challenge these relationships‚ especially because of the financial gains involved.
“It is necessary to ensure that girls and young females are empowered and have access to education and employment to break the cycle of poverty‚” said Shisana.