Responsible behavior and HIV/AIDS
HIV/AIDS was first detected among a few homosexual men. Gradually the proportion of women infected by HIV has risen. Of the total infected persons globally, 48% are women. Among them majority are young and adolescent, many are married and have had one partner i.e. their legal husband. Married women who are faithful to their husbands and had no history of pre-marital or extra-marital relationship are not less vulnerable to HIV infection. In the recent report published by UNFPA (State of world population 2005) it was stated that sex within the bondage of marriage is not always safe and cannot give protection against HIV infection. The percentage of women becoming infected by their legal partner is increasing alarmingly. In India 90% of HIV infected women were virgin when they were married, had no history of pre-marital sex and remained faithful to their husbands (State of world population 2005). The scenario in Bangladesh is almost the same as that of India. Unfortunately there is no authentic data on how many married women got HIV infection from their husband. In the voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) center of CAAP, 6702 samples of blood had been tested for HIV since 1996 to date and 451 persons were found HIV positive. Out of them 159 were women. Except a few of these unfortunate women all of them got the infection from the legal bondage of marriage, i.e. from their husband. It has been observed that community leaders, religious leaders, even civil society and elites have believe that one cannot get HIV infection within the legal relationship of marriage. This strong belief/misconception is dangerous. HIV has no respect for legal relationship within the bondage of marriage or illegal relation without marriage. HIV can infect anyone, married or unmarried, if someone has sexual contact (irresponsible behavior) with any HIV infected person without the protection of condom. Use of condom, or protected sex, is the responsibility of men. Married women all over the world cannot negotiate safe sex with their husband even though they are aware of their husband's extra marital relations. Because of their subordinated status, women cannot even challenge the fidelity of their husband. Yet they are the victims. Men's responsible behavior can save the situation.
The writer is Executive Director Confidential Approach to AIDS Prevention (CAAP).