Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 399–412

Women's lives and sex: Implications for AIDS prevention

  • Geeta Rao Gupta
  • Ellen Weiss

DOI: 10.1007/BF01379307

Cite this article as:
Gupta, G.R. & Weiss, E. Cult Med Psych (1993) 17: 399. doi:10.1007/BF01379307


Preliminary findings from the Women and AIDS program, a research grants program of the International Center for Research on Women in Washington, D.C. that supports 17 studies in developing countries worldwide, provide a glimpse into the complex interaction between women's social and economic status and risk of HIV infection. In many settings, the cultural norms that demand sexual fidelity and docile and acquiescent sexual behavior among women permit — and sometimes even encourage —early sexual experimentation, multiple partnerships, and aggressive and dominating sexual behavior among men. Drawing upon the findings from the program, the paper analyzes how such cultural norms, together with women's social and economic dependency, can limit a woman's ability to negotiate safer sex with her partner; restrict her access to information and knowledge about her body; force her to sometimes barter sex for survival; increase her vulnerability to physical violence in sexual interaction; and compromise her self-esteem. The findings highlight the limitations of the current HIV/AIDS prevention strategy for reducing women's risk of HIV, and underline the urgency for an approach to prevention that is grounded in the realities of women's lives and sexual experiences — an approach that recognizes the relationship between the dynamics of gender relations, sexual behavior, and HIV risk.

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Geeta Rao Gupta
    • 1
  • Ellen Weiss
    • 1
  1. 1.Women and AIDS ProgramInternational Center for Research on WomenWashington, DC

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