Women in Armenia are more vulnerable and have higher chances of getting infected with HIV than men, especially in rural areas where the level of awareness of the infection in rather low. In 2016-2017, Women’s Empowerment Center NGO carried out a a program in several Armenian provinces to raise HIV and AIDS awareness among women girls. The researchers presented the results of their study at a press conference in Yerevan on Friday.
According to the latest data from the National Center for AIDS prevention, the majority of HIV-positive people in Armenia are men, primarily due to the role of male out-migration; 97% of women who have AIDS have acquired the disease through sexual contact.
“What does it show? A man leaves the country for work, returns home, and a woman does not have any leverage to make him get tested. A woman can not persuade a man not to have sexual intercourse until he is tested or use condoms,” Zhenya Mailyan, the head of WEC, said.
In addition, the woman herself does not have enough information or knowledge to decide whether a test is needed. “Unfortunately, in our culture, a woman rarely takes matters into her own hands and sends her husband or her future husband for examination,” Mailyan said.
The Center’s survey in the provinces has shown that people in more rural areas use practically no protection during sexual activities. Out of the 214 female respondents, only 0.1% know about post-exposure prophylaxis. The majority of women do not know where in their province they can undergo STI testing.
The discrimination against people affected by HIV/AIDS is mainly due to the lack of knowledge and awareness among people. According to Mailyan, people often avoid getting tested because of the fear of potential discriminatory attitude towards themselves. “If it were not for discrimination, if people were sure that their lives would not turn into hell after they are diagnosed with AIDS, they would undergo testing.”