Botswana and Swaziland are among the countries with the highest HIV infection rates in the world, and both countries are characterized by a stark gender difference in rates of infection. In Botswana, an estimated 21 percent of women are infected with HIV, compared to a rate of almost 16 percent for men. In Swaziland, roughly 31 percent of women were HIV-positive in 2015 compared to 20 percent of men.
To gain insight into the link between gender discrimination and the high HIV prevalence among women in these two countries, PHR conducted a population-based study in 2004 and 2005. The study found that there were four key factors that increase women’s vulnerability to contracting HIV: their lack of control over sexual decision-making, including the use of condoms or engaging in a monogamous relationship; ongoing HIV-related stigma; gender-discriminatory beliefs; and the failure of governmental and traditional leaders to promote the equality, autonomy, and economic independence of women. More findings can be found in the 2007 report “Epidemic of Inequality: Women’s Rights and HIV/AIDS in Botswana & Swaziland.”