Sex, gender and HIV/AIDS

Sex and gender play critical roles in the transmission of HIV, often creating heightened vulnerability for women:

  • Differences in the male and female reproductive tracts allow the virus to move readily from the male to the female body through heterosexual intercourse.
  • Men who have sex with men are also at heightened risk of contracting HIV if they are the receptive partner during anal sex.

While physiologically sex makes a difference in the risk of contracting HIV, so do gender roles and norms. Social and cultural values that encourage or allow men to have multiple sexual partners and ignore safe sex practices have contributed to rising rates of HIV infection among women globally. Similarly, women's lack of social, economic and political power—compared with men, means that many cannot limit their exposure to the virus by refusing sex or insisting on safe sex practices.

National and international partnerships

ACEWH was at the forefront of raising awareness about the role of gender in the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Since the late 1990s, we fostered partnerships with local, national and international organizations to design resources that would demonstrate the impact of gender on those infected or affected by HIV, and we have been able to share these resources with policy makers, community-based organizations, and researchers in many parts of the world.