What Puts Women at Risk? – Stigmas

“Could you please wear a condom?”

The answer: Why should I?
The answer: I’m not sick. Are you?
The answer: No. I can’t feel anything with one on.
The answer: I’m not paying for a condom.
The answer: Who do you think you are?

It might seem like such a simple, healthy question to ask. But it can often be a dangerous, impossible question for a woman to say out loud.

Through a request to have safer sex, a woman risks so much. Partly because of power imbalances. Partly because of stigma.

Stigma is a devaluation of people either living with or associated with HIV and AIDS. Discrimination follows stigma and is the unfair and unjust treatment of an individual based on his or her real or perceived HIV status.

Stigma and discrimination can be challenges for almost everyone, but women can face particular issues. Women at risk of or infected by HIV confront these realities:

  • women are vulnerable to infection during unprotected vaginal and anal sex
  • women with HIV remain largely invisible
  • women face sexual stigma
  • power imbalances in relationships usually favour men
  • medical care doesn’t acknowledge women’s risk for HIV
  • women are often caregivers with little resources for themselves
  • disclosure can be dangerous
  • asking a partner to get tested and/or disclose can be dangerous

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