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Migrant women at much higher risk of HIV/AIDS - new report
Thursday 21 October 2004
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SOUTH AFRICA: Migrant women at much higher risk of HIV/AIDS - new report


[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]



©  IRIN

Migrant women find themselves powerless to negotiate safe sex

JOHANNESBURG, 14 September (PLUSNEWS) - Rural women seeking work in South Africa's urban centres are as much at risk of contracting HIV as a their male counterparts, a new study has found.

Research funded by the UK Department for International Development showed that HIV infection was higher among migrant women (46 percent) than non-migrant women (35 percent).

The study, conducted in Carltonville, a small mining town about 50 km southwest of Johannesburg, aimed to identify risk factors for HIV infection among 834 women, mainly resident in the nearby Khutsong township.

Whether they were married or single, migrant women showed a higher level of HIV infection, "suggesting that whilst migrant women are away from home they engage in sexual activities with multiple partners".

Kangelani Zuma, co-author of the report, told PlusNews that migrant women were, in some cases, forced into sexual relations in exchange for shelter or security.

"Having multiple partners can be seen as a strategy for economic survival during the migration period. Many of these migrant women do not have a place to stay when they arrive in the urban areas and are forced to have 'transactional sex' with a series of partners," Zuma explained.

Condom use was also lower among migrant women than non-migrant women. "Because many of these women arrive with very little, they find themselves powerless and unable to negotiate safe sex," he added.

According to the study, the risk of contracting HIV was affected by age, marital status and the use of alcohol. Women aged 35 years or younger and married or committed were at greater risk of HIV infection than those who were older or single.

"Being older and single often meant the woman was more stable and less sexually active. But it must be pointed out that the use of alcohol in itself is not a risk factor, but rather the sexual risks a person is willing to take when under the influence of alcohol is cause for concern," Zuma said.

The report noted that, given the "alarmingly high" prevalence of HIV and curable sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among migrant women, urgent intervention was needed, which should address the social and economic factors promoting the spread of HIV.

"There is a definite need for provision of services to treat STDs, and for educational and empowerment programmes that will promote condom use among migrant women," Zuma said.

He recommended that migrant women be accommodated in "resettlement" areas catering specifically for families. "Much is being done for migrant males to ensure that they can bring their wives and children to the hostels in the city. The same should be undertaken for these women who leave home to seek work," he told PlusNews.

[ENDS]


 
Recent SOUTH AFRICA Reports
AIDS orphan village planned,  12/Oct/04
HIV/AIDS care centre not being fully utilised,  8/Oct/04
Using theatre to encourage HIV testing,  6/Oct/04
Vaccine research struggles to find trial participants,  5/Oct/04
Countering the impact of child abuse,  27/Sep/04
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Sida Info Services
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Le Fonds mondial de lutte contre le SIDA, la tuberculose et le paludisme
Le Réseau Afrique 2000

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