Empowering women in human immunodeficiency virus prevention.
Abdool Karim, Quarraisha.
Humphries, Hilton Richard.
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Women comprise one-half of people infected with the human immunodeficiency virus in the world, and about 70% of them live in sub-Saharan Africa. Advancing, untreated HIV disease in women has resulted in substantial declines in fertility rates, life expectancy and infant mortality rates, and an increased burden of tuberculosis. Three decades into the pandemic, our knowledge of HIV acquisition in women remains sparse, as are options of what women can use to reduce their risk of acquiring HIV. Here, we describe the role of pre-HIV responses to venereal diseases and then discuss unwanted pregnancies, early perceptions of the HIV epidemic in setting prevention priorities, and the history of microbicide development. Opportunities to reduce HIV risk in women through sexual reproductive health services are highlighted. Women are key to turning the tide of the HIV pandemic. Microbicides provide an opportunity to ensure survival of women while addressing the power disparities that underpin women’s vulnerability to HIV.