Gender Impact of HIV and AIDS in India

Basanta K. Pradhan, Ramamani Sundar
JEL codes: 
United Nations Development Programme, 2006

According to the estimates of NACO for the year 2005, in India, women account for around two million of the approximately 5.2 million estimated cases of people living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHA), constituting 39 percent of all HIV infections. The surveillance data indicates that, in high prevalence states, the epidemic is spreading gradually from urban to rural areas and from high-risk groups to the general population. A significant proportion of new infections is occurring in women who are in monogamous relationship and have been infected by husbands or partners who have multiple sex partners. According to NACO, of the 1,11,608 AIDS cases reported in the country till 31 July 2005, females accounted for nearly 30 percent.
Biological, socio-cultural and economicfactors make women and young girls more vulnerable to HIV and AIDS. The HIV virus is more easily transmitted from men to women than from women to men; male-to-female transmission during sex is about twice as likely as femaleto-male transmission. In India, the low status of women, poverty, early marriage, trafficking, sex-work, migration, lack of education and gender discrimination are some of the factors responsible for increasing the vulnerability of women and girls to HIV infection.
The impact of HIV and AIDS reaches far beyond the health sector with severe economic and social consequences and it has been found that it is much more severe on women than men. Women and girls seem to bear disproportionate brunt of the epidemic psychologically, socially and economically. This study attempts to assess the impact of HIV and AIDS on women and female children in India in terms of:
(a) Burden of care, domestic work and economic responsibilities on women in the HIV households and the role of women as caregivers;
(b) Health-seeking behaviour and outof-pocket expenditure incurred by the HIV households on the treatment of opportunistic infections (OIs) suffered by the PLWHA;
(c) Ever and current enrolment of girls in school, gender differences in the reasons for discontinuation of schooling and the type of school attended by the children from HIV
and non-HIV households;
(d) S t i g m a a n d d i s c r i m i n a t i o n experienced by the PLWHA in various contexts such as family, community, workplace and healthcare facilities;
(e) K n o w l e d g e , a w a r e n e s s a n d misconception about HIV and AIDS, and attitude towards PLWHA among the general population; and
(f ) Status of HIV-positive widows.