South African women mostly at risk of getting HIV

By Drum Digital
29 June 2015

Women in South Africa might be biologically predisposed to contracting HIV.

The US Centres for Disease Control estimates that, on average, a woman would have to have sex 1000 times with an HIV-positive male to get the virus. But this estimate does not hold in South Africa, particularly in rural KwaZulu-Natal, where more than half of pregnant women will be HIV-positive by the time they are 25 or older, Times Live reported.

Deputy director of the Wits Centre for Reproductive Health and HIV Francois Venter said: "I'm deeply sceptical that sexual behaviour alone drives the epidemic in our area.

"What kind of sex are we Southern Africans having that confers a several thousandfold risk on a young woman in KwaZulu-Natal versus her contemporary in London or Delhi?"

Research published on Friday by scientists at the Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in SA, show that KwaZulu-Natal women who acquired HIV had more immune cells in their vaginas than those who did not.

Salim Abdool Karim, the centre's director, said: "This research provides evidence that the high HIV risk in women is not simply because of behaviour but has a biological basis."

This means that "in trying to reduce HIV in young women we might have been barking up the wrong tree by focusing only on trying to change their behaviour".

The centre's scientists have monitored thousands of KwaZulu-Natal women for years, taking vaginal cell samples every six months for a range of HIV-prevention trials.

Read the rest of the story here: TimesLive

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