Why the Fuss?
Women are at greater risk of contracting HIV-AIDS than men. Because of systemic gender inequalities, they are less able to protect themselves and their children from HIV-AIDS. Even fifteen years ago, data showed that married women’s single greatest HIV-AIDS risk factor is a husband with multiple partners. The lack of education, livelihood skills, access to information, mobility, defense against domestic violence, and access to legal and health services that is imposed on women leaves them highly vulnerable to HIV-AIDS.
Women are also biologically more susceptible to HIV-AIDS. The combined outcome can be seen in mature AIDS epidemics, such as in Sub-Saharan Africa. There, women now make up 57% of people living with HIV-AIDS, and women aged 15-24 are three times more likely to be infected than their male counterparts. In India the percentage of women living with HIV-AIDS has now risen to 39%, an indication of the same trend. HIV-AIDS further complicates efforts to eradicate poverty in India, and women and children suffer the most.
HIV is now the leading cause of death and disease among women aged 15-49. The only risk factor for nine out of ten women contracting the virus is their husband. However, because of systemic gender inequalities, women are less able to protect themselves and their children from HIV-AIDS.
More than "AIDS awareness"
There is high “AIDS awareness” in Andhra Pradesh. However, AIDS awareness alone does not result in reduced risk. Almost universally, high awareness of HIV-AIDS co-exists with risk-taking behavior. Multi-partner sex, the highest risk factor for HIV transmission in India, is actually increasing in Andhra Pradesh. Those who understand how HIV-AIDS is transmitted and prevented do have somewhat higher rates of behaviour change. However, providing knowledge on transmission modes and preventative measures generally makes little difference to women who want to protect themselves. It is men who generally decide when and with whom to have intercourse and whether or not to use condoms. Most women lack the capacity to negotiate abstinence or a condom with their male sex partners.
How Nivedita Prevents HIV-AIDS
Awareness of HIV-AIDS is not enough. A woman must first recognize that her her biggest risk factor for HIV is her husband. The Nivedita serial dramatizes this predicament, making the situation real and personal to viewers. However, once a woman recogonizes her risk, what can she do?
Morever, her vulnerability to HIV-AIDS is complicated by powerlessness from systemic gender inequality comprised of multiple factors including:
1. Lack of mobility / isolation at home
2. Bias in her education / illiteracy
3. Limited access to health and legal information / services
4. Limited access to personal financial resources / credit
5. Lack of independent livelihood skills
So if her husband refuses to listen to reason about the risk he brings to the family, she may face violence or be thrown out of the house if she insists on abstinence or a condom. She knows that without options, she will be easy prey for traffickers.
The Nivedita television serial models two avenues of redressing these factors: community based action and formal government action.
Women's self-help groups (SHGs) play important roles in women's empowerment, both at the local level and through state-wide networking, providing:
1. Women a forum to solve their own problems together
2. Training to fill gaps in her (lack of) formal education
3. Capacity building in health and legal literacy
4. Microfinance opportunities for savings and loans
5. Livelihood skills training and marketing networks for women's microenterprises
These resources are available in virtually all rural villages by contacting a community activist/organizer.
Formal, Government System
Vulnerable women can access similar functions, including various counseling and shelter schemes, through various government options. Learn more about services offered through the Legal Services Authority and the Department of Women Development and Chld Welfare. Important contact information is available by registering for access to the Nivedita referral network.
With such safety nets in place a vulnerable woman is better placed to negotiate sex with her husband for the security of her family. She'll be a survivor, and so will her children, even if her husband and in-laws insist on making dangerous choices.
Even if you’re not at risk for HIV, you can still be a part of an innovative campaign to fight HIV-AIDS among Telugu speaking women in Andhra Pradesh and around the world.
• Encourage others to watch Nivedita
• Download and print out answers to common legal questions of vulnerable women and HIV-Positive people.
Government and non-government organizations, especially those already involved in microfinance and woman empowerment programs can take special advantage of discussion questions specifically tailored to watching Nivedita in small groups. It’s an effortless way to expand your microfinance work into the important health domain.
Gain instant access to phone numbers for:
• Andhra Pradesh Protection Officers (The Domestic Violence Act 2005)
• The Andhra Pradesh Legal Services Authority