More women receive AIDS treatment than men

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HIV-positive members of a self-help group meet with a caregiver in the village of Michelo, south of the Chikuni Mission in the south of Zambia February 23, 2015. The caregivers in the Jesuit-run home-based care project at the Chikuni Mission run a capacity-building and empowerment project at the household level, offering training and assistance in crop-growing and animal rearing, as well as offering companionship, pastoral care and monitoring of the antiretroviral treatment compliance of HIV-AIDS patients. Reuters

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that women are significantly more likely to receive antiretroviral therapy (ART) for the treatment of HIV. The  study, published on Nov 27, analysed 765,087 adult ART patient records, concluding the disproportionate ART enrollment among adult women compared with men.

This disparity can be attributed to HIV testing and counselling during antenatal care and the eligibility of treatment, which is more inclusive for women to prevent mother-to-child-transmission, according to CDC. Women are more likely to seek medical help, whereas men feel discouraged to seek  treatment due to responsibilities at work and the stigma attached to admitting illness.

The CDC estimated the female-to-male ratio of new ART enrollees annually from 2002 to 2013 to measure ART access among men and women. It compared this yearly ratio with the adult female-to-male ratios among HIV-infected patients estimated by The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Medscape Medical News reports.

The CDC admits the study's limitations. The researchers cannot make sound statistical comparison between cohort-derived and UNAIDS-derived ratios because of the uncertainty of the epidemic models upon which the estimates are based on. Differences in size and generalizability of cohort data, lack of age-specific data, and failure to examine gender ratios among patients being tested for HIV or health management also contribute to its limitations.

"Government and donor-level policy and management shifts, including endorsement of male-health–focused strategies, performance-based financing that provides incentives to reach both men and women, and gender disaggregation of HIV treatment cohort data are also needed," the researchers said. "Prioritizing increased ART coverage among men with HIV could decrease male morbidity and mortality and reduce HIV incidence among sexual partners."

More data on how to increase HIV testing and treatment among HIV-infected men are needed. The study suggests that  projects conducted in hospitals and community health centers are required to improve the situation. Special programs to reach men with HIV, performance-based financing that offers incentives to reach men and women, and better strategies to evaluate data are also important to finding solutions to the problem.

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