Almost Half of All Pregnant Women in Swaziland Have HIV

A new survey shows that 42.6 percent of pregnant women in Swaziland have contracted HIV/AIDS. In 2002, the number of pregnant women with the virus was 38.6 percent.

The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare is urging the country “to act urgently to reverse these rising trends of HIV prevalence among pregnant women, and to protect the unborn children from infection, as well as reach both women and men with care and treatment,” reports IRIN News.

Swaziland has the world’s highest HIV infection rate (39 percent). Experts point to polygamy, rape, sexual violence and legal exploitation as the main causes of the HIV infection rate. Earlier this year, a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) representative concluded that the quick spread of HIV/AIDS in the country is due to men’s dominance over women and their use of laws, religions, and customs to justify male dominance. The ten countries with the highest percentages of adults living with HIV/AIDS in the world are all in sub-Saharan Africa, where patriarchy and poverty are deeply rooted.

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IRIN News 4/5/05, 3/21/05; Feminist Daily News 1/25/05

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