During the summer of 2014, I am taking an online course in Global Health from Stanford University taught by Anne Firth Murray entitled, "International Women's Health and Human Rights" (IWHHR). I will be posting my reflective writing assignments from each week's course of study. All writings can be found under the tag IWHHR. Details on the course can be found here.
If you are interested in taking this or another course, you can find a listing of the online courses offered by Stanford here. From economics to cryptography, courses are added each semester.
THOUGHT QUESTION, WEEK 3, PART B
Dr. Gene Richardson speaks about how reliance on medical technology can undermine the introduction of social interventions that may be relevant in preventing or treating HIV/AIDS. Describe two or three social/non-medical interventions that you think might be effective in preventing or treating HIV/AIDS. Write three to five thoughtful paragraphs about these possible interventions.
This week I learned that gender inequality plays a huge role in the HIV epidemic. Girls are more than twice as likely to contract the disease for both social and physiological reasons. Social interventions to combat gender inequality are relevant in treating and preventing HIV/AIDS by the same principle that participating in a sports team or taking up running (social intervention) can help one's overall physical health and possibly eliminate the need to take a blood pressure medication (the bio-medical intervention). Treating the root of the problem instead of just the symptoms.
The first social intervention that comes to mind immediately is educating young people (both boys and girls). Education, alone, increases the chances that young children and adolescents will be in the classroom instead of vulnerable on the streets where they are more likely to become involved in unsafe sex practices and drug use, which we know increase the odds of contracting HIV.
Eradicating school fees, so that all children and adolescents have equal access to attend school would be another social intervention that would be relevant.
Also, the type of education and learning also makes a difference. Education about the disease specifically, as illustrated in the videos distributed by TeachAIDS, will help young people know what HIV is and how to be careful not to contract it. Also teaching healthy communication styles to empower girls to ask for what they deserve. Both boys and girls (and men and women) would benefit greatly, in all cultures, from healthy communication practices.
Other interventions include banning things like child marriage and FGM/C. These would help to get girl children to remain in school and in a less vulnerable position to contract HIV/AIDS. I was surprised to learn in this week's readings and videos that one of the most vulnerable places for an adolescent girl to be in to contract HIV/AIDS is marriage due to the practice of husbands continuing to have multiple partners, which is socially acceptable and encouraged in many poorer countries, and the inability to negotiate safe sex with condoms, and the inability to say no to sex with their husbands due to cultural/social expectations.
The effects of FGM/C on girls' school attendance, psychological health, and physical health are all factors making her more vulnerable to situations where should would contract HIV.
Social interventions may have a greater holistic effect in preventing HIV/AIDS and decreasing its prevalence than bio-medical interventions such as preventative cocktails, which are often given to high-risk individuals in some sub-Saharan African countries, as well as India. Instead of just treating the HIV virus after it is acquired (bio-medically with medication and other healthcare), preventing women and girls from being in the situation to contract the disease by implementing other social interventions as mentioned above will have a greater effect on decreasing the number of HIV/AIDS cases. Combining these social and bio-medical efforts will help both those who are vulnerable and at risk to potentially contract the disease, as well as those who have already been diagnosed.