Gender, Empowerment, and Health: What Is It? How Does It Work?

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As the HIV/AIDS epidemic has progressed, the role of gender inequality in its transmission has become increasingly apparent. Nearly half of those living with the virus worldwide are women, and women's subordination to men increases their risk of infection and makes it harder for them to access treatment once infected. Men, too, suffer from harmful gender norms-the expectation that they will behave in ways that heighten their risk of HIV infection and that they will be cavalier about seeking health care increases their vulnerability to the disease. In the Middle East and North Africa, HIV infection rates are low, but changing gender norms have the potential to accelerate the spread of the disease if gender inequality is not addressed. Improving women's education, workforce participation, and social and political opportunities is crucial to strengthening health in the region. Work with men to shift gender imbalances is a further important task for the region's policy-makers and civil society groups.

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