HIV/AIDS is surrounded with prejudice and misunderstanding. When it initially gained public notice in the 1980s, HIV/AIDS was thought to be something that only affected homosexual men. Much effort have been put into raising awareness on the complex reality of HIV/AIDS over the decades, precisely because it is the stigma that results in greater vulnerability and the expansion of this global pandemic.

The specificity of women and girls has only recently been highlighted in HIV/AIDS policy, research, programmes and resource allocation. Women make up nearly half of the 40 million people living with HIV worldwide, and the rate of infection in women are increasing. Women, especially young women and grrls, are vulnerable due to gender inequality, social and cultural norms, poverty, biology, and in particular, violence against women.

Women living in situations of domestic violence are much more likely to become infected by HIV than women who live in non-violent households. It is also difficult for women and young grrls to negotiate condom use and safer sex with their partners, a recognised method to reduce the likelihood of HIV infection.

Female sexuality is often constructed in as passive and lacking. Men and boys on the other hand, are understood to possess active sexual agency, and are expected to initiate the first move in sexual interaction. As such, women who take control of their sexuality fall outside of what is ‘normal’, and are easily hailed as being ‘over eager’ or ‘shameless’.

The majority of sexually explicit content available on the internet supports this construction of female/male sexuality. At the same time, the internet has also become a critical space for the expression of women’s desires and sexual rights, especially women of diverse sexualities. We need to be able to control our own bodies, and articulate our own sexual desires and rights, according to our own terms. Not only is this crucial to help mitigate the rate of HIV infections amongst women and girls, it is part of our fundamental human rights.

Take back our bodies. Let’s talk about sex!

  • How do you negotiate your own sexuality in your relationships with your partner, peers, family and society?
  • What are the kinds of challenges you face, and how do you deal with them?
  • Share a story on how you’ve negotiated safer sex with a partner, and stamp out the shame.
  • Just click on comment, and speak your sexual rights.
  • Or if you’re blogging, write a post (don’t forget to tag it)

Increase the volume and help prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS!