Findings from a Gender Analysis for Microbicide Introduction in South Africa

HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects women and girls. Their increased vulnerability to HIV is driven in part by manifestations of gender inequality, including gender-based violence; norms that make negotiation and communication about sex difficult; assumptions that place the burden of care, including HIV prevention, on women; and women’s and girls’ lack of access to financial and other resources.

Microbicides were conceived as a woman-initiated HIV prevention tool (see text at left for more information). If clinical trials find they are effective enough to be rolled out, microbicides will offer women an important and fundamentally different HIV prevention option – one that can be used without their partner’s knowledge, if they desire. However, even if a microbicide product becomes available, women will likely face many gender-related obstacles to microbicide access and adherence. To identify and prepare to address these obstacles, as well as any opportunities to promote women’s agency, Sonke Gender Justice and FHI 360 conducted a gender analysis for microbicide introduction in South Africa.

The gender analysis, which took place in 2013, included a desktop review of microbicides research and HIV and gender-related policies and demographic information; interviews with stakeholders – including policymakers, funders, NGO representatives and health care providers; and an interpretation meeting with stakeholders. This brief shares the findings and discusses their implications.