Gender Equality & Empowerment

Gender inequality and Gender-based violence are both important human rights and development themes beyond HIV responses. However, they are significant barriers to the overall goal of reducing new infections and ensuring all Zambians have access to appropriate treatment. 

In Zambia, HIV prevalence rates are consistently higher in women than in men demonstrates the importance of taking a strong stance to address gender inequality and gender-based violence. More women are living with HIV (16.1%) in Zambia than men (12.3%) in the general population but the gender disparity amongst adolescents is even greater with girls in the 15 - 24 age group twice as likely to be HIV-positive than boys of the same age The higher number of girls and women living with HIV is a direct result of cultural barriers which expose them to risk. Girls and women are not expected to take a lead on issues of sexual negotiations or question men’s sexual behavior outside marriage, making it difficult for them to demand condom use. 

In some communities intergenerational sex places girls at significant risk of exposure to the virus. One of the most common reasons for girls dropping out of school is unwanted pregnancy or early marriage, both demonstrating unsafe sexual practices exposing young girls to the HIV virus. Men and boys are less likely to use health services including HTC meaning they are less likely than women to know their HIV status but due to unequal power relations a woman may not wish to share her sero-status with her husband for fear of being blamed. 

Gender-based violence has been identified as a significant factor in gender inequality in Zambia, affecting all aspects of women and men’s life including their access to and use of HIV services. Whilst most violence is perpetrated by men against women, it is also clear from the report that child abuse of boys as well as girls was high. Alcohol abuse is a significant co-factor in GBV and is perceived as a serious problem by communities throughout the country.