Mixed feelings over HIV prevention gel…

On the one hand I am ecstatic that researchers seem to have got a step closer to finding a new way to prevent the spread of HIV. On the other hand I am saddened that scientific research again privileges men’s rights over women’s bodies.

Lets take the negative first – creating something that means women don’t rely on men’s willingness to use a condom is a double edged sword. Yes it means more ability to protect themselves but it also means less in ability to protect oneself from other sexually communicable issues including pregnancy. Plus it’s looking at the problem from the wrong perspective – the problem isn’t that women can’t protect themselves but that men feel it’s fine to insist on unprotected sex and will enforce that through violence and coercion. That’s the real problem. I can forsee two things happening here which distress me greatly. One is men claiming their coerced sex or rape was “less bad” because they used this new gel and two women being blamed if they contract HIV now there is a new preventative method available (or at least will be soon).

Take this quote from the article….

Scientists are grappling for a means by which women, who are physically more at risk from AIDS infection than men, can protect themselves without having to rely on male consent to wear a condom.

From News Info

This hides the fact that women’s physical vulnerability is also because HIV is more easily transmitted through broken tissue such as that which occurs during a rape (not ignoring that male-to-female transmission is biologically easier than female-to-male transmission). Providing another tool in the kit of denials to wear a condom isn’t necessarily the best way forward.

On the other hand I am glad the research is continuing…but, word of warning, all they have found so far is a gel which is apparently not harmful to women, it’s rates of success in preventing HIV transmission have not yet been assessed.