Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are spread primarily through sexual contact and are among the most common diseases in the world. STIs can cause physical discomfort, infertility, and sometimes — if left untreated — death. For women, they may also lead to chronic abdominal pain and ectopic pregnancy. Some STIs can increase a person’s susceptibility to HIV infection. Every day more than 1 million people are infected with a curable STI.
HIV/AIDS Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)is the virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).AIDSdevelops as HIV weakens the body’s immune system and its ability to fight off infection and fatal illness. HIVis spread through sexual contact and exchange of some bodily fluids, including: blood, semen, vaginal fluid, breast milk, and other bodily fluids containing blood. Every day over 13,500 men, women, and children become infected with HIV. Half of all new infections are among young people aged 15 to 24.
What makes women vulnerable to STIs/HIV/AIDS? • Worldwide, women account for 48% of adults living with HIV. In Africa, HIV-positive women outnumber infected men by 3 million. • Because of their physiology, women are 2 to 4 times more likely than men to contract an STI, including HIV, during unprotected vaginal sex. • Gender roles, especially in sexual relations, may limit a woman’s ability to refuse sex or negotiate for safer sex, and may hinder a man’s willingness to use a condom. • A study in India found that 93% of women attending an STI clinic were married, 91% of whom had never had sex with anyone but their husbands. STIs/HIV/AIDS ( 5 )
HIV/AIDS affects every sector of family and community life • Since the AIDS epidemic began, 13.2 million children — 95% of them in Africa — lost their mother or both parents to AIDS. • In sub-Saharan Africa in 1999, an estimated 860,000 school children lost their teacher to AIDS. • In recent years, HIV-positive patients have occupied half the beds in big city hospitals in countries such as Burundi, Kenya and Thailand.
Prevention of HIV/AIDS must be an international, national and local priority Investing in prevention programs is the most cost-effective and long-term way to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Prevention programs should include: • Education and information about HIV/AIDS • Unrestricted access to condoms and promotionof condom use • Gender-sensitive training for both men and women toempower them to make safer sexual decisions • Promotion and support of voluntary HIV testing • Medical research into the development and production ofaffordable microbicides, an AIDS vaccine, andtreatment for HIV/AIDS STIs/HIV/AIDS ( 7 )
People living with HIV/AIDSneed special services With over 40 million people living with HIV/AIDS, there is a great need to improve the quality of life for those affected. Programs and policies should: • Provide psychosocial support forpeople living with or affected by HIV/AIDS • Reduce the stigma associated with • HIV/AIDS • Increase access to low-cost essential drugsandcombination antiretroviral treatments • Promote the use of condoms as a means of encouraging safer sexual relations with HIV positive persons
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