50 mn Asian women at risk of HIV infection

AIDS victim Kirenjit Kaur, who was infected by her partner, at a conference in  Bali on Tuesday. AFP

More than 90 per cent of the 1.7 million women now living with HIV in Asia became infected while being in monogamous, long-term relationships with men who engaged in risky sex behaviour, the report launched by UNAIDS said. These include men who had other sexual partners or who were drug users. "We need to target men who engage in paid sex, injecting drug users, men who have sex with men, who can transmit the virus to their partners," Jean D'Cunha, regional director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women in South Asia, told a news conference held on the margins of an HIV/AIDS conference in Bali.

While the issue of gender inequality is often ignored or laughed off, experts say it cannot be taken lightly in the context of HIV/AIDS, a disease that can be transmitted through sexual contact and which is incurable. Sex workers, who have very little bargaining power to begin with, are usually forced to comply when their clients refuse to use condoms. Back home, the wives of these men too have no power to demand that condoms be used even if they know the risky sexual behaviour of their husbands.

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