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Equal Opportunities For HIV-Positive Women Urged

A leading economic think tank has urged policymakers to ensure equal access to treatment and livelihood opportunities for HIV-positive women to reduce their// economic and social vulnerability.

"It is imperative to see that women who are disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS get equal opportunities to access treatment," stated the National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER) in a report on 'Gender impact of HIV and AIDS in India', published in its latest monthly bulletin.

"One of the ways (to do so) is to provide more education to women. Creating livelihood opportunities for more women will reduce their dependency and expand their financial freedom," stated NCAER, which conducted a household survey during October 2004 to May 2005 with the support of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO).

The state-run NACO's estimates for 2005 indicate that women in India account for around two million of the approximately 5.2 million people afflicted by HIV and AIDS.

According to NACO, of the 111,608 AIDS cases reported in the country till July 31, 2005, females accounted for nearly 30 percent.

In India, the inferior social 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 the HIV infection.

Women and girls seem to bear disproportionate brunt of the epidemic financially, socially and economically.

The survey covered 2,068 HIV households and 6,224 non-HIV households spread over the rural and urban areas of six high prevalence states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Manipur and Nagaland. Of the 2,386 positive cases nearly 44 percent were women.

The present study reiterates the general perception that women are disproportionately affected by HIV
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