African Journal of AIDS Research

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Women's health, HIV/AIDS and the workplace in South Africa

Courtenay Sprague


This work explores the connections between gender inequality, HIV/AIDS and women's health in the world of work in South Africa. These connections are located within a context of significant reversals in development, specifically declining life expectancy and premature mortality for South Africans — particularly for women. By relying on the existing literature and interviews with 33 key informants, the paper examines the extent to which South African workplaces are recognising women's social and biological vulnerability to HIV. In particular, the paper considers the potential role of the workplace in responding to growing evidence that links gender and health by establishing targeted HIV/AIDS interventions. The findings suggest that the vast majority of company representatives do not recognise women's social and biological vulnerability and related social norms vis-à-vis HIV and AIDS. Importantly, most workplaces are not initiating programmes that specifically address women's or men's health. The author briefly identifies factors that may help explain the current state of knowledge and practice in the realm of HIV and women's health in the workplace, and puts forward suggestions for future research.

Keywords: developing countries; equity; gender issues; health promotion; occupational health; sex-specific interventions; social conditions; women and work; women's health

African Journal of AIDS Research 2008, 7(3): 341–352
AJOL African Journals Online