By: Adama Mariama Sesay
A data gathered by the Ministry of Gender and Children Affairs indicated that women record the highest cases of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) than men in Sierra Leone.
This gender assessment was conducted in 2019 in collaboration with the National Aids Secretariat and women tops the list of HIV positives with 49,000 (59:4%) out of 69,000 of the adults aged. The reports further that the HIV prevalence among young women (aged 15 to 24 years) is double (1.2%) than among their male counterparts (0.6%). Additionally, HIV prevalence is higher among key populations: 6.7% in female sex workers, men who have sex with men (14%), people who inject drugs (8.5%, prisoners (8.7%) and transgender people (15.3%). In 2018, HIV treatment was higher among women than men, with 86% of adult women living with HIV on treatment, compared to 74% of their male counterparts. In 2019, estimates of Aids-related deaths were 1000 for both males and females, reaching equal percentages (50%). AIDS remained among the top 10 causes of death in 2017 in Sierra Leone, with AIDS–related death rates higher than in Guinea, Benin, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Niger and Mauritania.
According to the 2019 Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), only 28% of women and 33% of men have comprehensive knowledge about HIV and seventy-five per cent of young men and 69% of young women know that they will reduce their risk of HIV infection by using condoms and limiting sexual intercourse to one uninfected partner (2019 DHS). Knowledge of HIV prevention methods is higher among urban women and men (73% and 83% respectively) than their rural counterparts (66% and 79% respectively). Early and forced marriage, Gender-Based Violence (GBV), poverty, limited educational and economic opportunities, unequal access to information-including sexual health knowledge, and a lack of negotiating power and economic autonomy are among the factors that place women, girls and key populations at high risk of HIV infection, as well as circumscribing their responses once they have contracted the virus.
According to the multiple indicator cluster surveys (MICS0 2017, 66.3% of currently married or in-union women, ages 15-19, reported that their husband or partner is five or more years older than them and 65.3% among women aged 20 to 24 have partners at least five years their senior.