HIV/AIDS: South African women at risk

  • L Walker Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER) University of the Witwatersrand, Private Bag 3, Johannesburg, WITS 2050, South Africa
  • L Gilbert Department of Sociology, School of Social Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand


This paper engages some aspects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the complexities associated with it. It outlines the socio-epidemiological patterns of the epidemic and in doing so identifies the groups with the greatest and fastest growing rates of infection. The pattern of the epidemic in South Africa is as follows: it is primarily a heterosexual one, the rates of infection in the general population are very high, and the percentage of HIV positive women is greater than men. An additional feature is the young age of onset of infection for women. These data demonstrate the need to focus our attention on young African women and the factors underpinning their predicament. In order to shed light on the position of women in the epidemic and the particular risks they face we examine the long-standing relationship between gender and racial inequalities and health.
Within the constraints of limited and flawed statistical data, the paper argues that a complex interaction of material, social, cultural and behavioural factors shape the nature, process and outcome of the epidemic in South Africa. It concludes with recommendations for the way forward.

Keywords: HIV/AIDS; health inequalities; gender inequalities

(Af J AIDS Res: 2002 1(1): 75-85)

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1608-5906
print ISSN: 1727-9445