145576 Failed Health Policies and Colonial Legacies: The Case of U.S. HIV/AIDS Prevention and the Vulnerability of Kenyan Women

Tuesday, November 6, 2007: 9:25 AM

Madina Agenor, MPH , Department of Society, Human Development, and Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA
Introduction: Kenyan women are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS compared to their male counterparts. In 2003, George W. Bush implemented the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in an effort to tackle the soaring HIV incidence rates in a number of developing countries, including Kenya. However, by ignoring the historically-determined social, economic, and political factors underlying women's HIV vulnerability, the bill fails to effectively tackle the growing pandemic. Methods: A thorough review of the literature to identify relevant sources and policy analysis of H.R. 1298. Results: By adhering to biomedical and cultural models of HIV/AIDS, the bill that authorized PEPFAR, H.R. 1298, fails to recognize and address the gender inequality at the root of women's HIV vulnerability. In order to fully understand Kenyan women's risk of infection, a thorough examination of the impact of colonialism on contemporary women's societal position is needed. While Kenyan women had a lesser social status than men prior to colonial rule, British colonists imposed laws that further undermined their property and ownership rights and restricted their economic options. These laws have all had a lasting impact on contemporary Kenyan women's experience in the existing economic, education, legal, and health care systems, which in turn affects their vulnerability to HIV infection. Conclusion: In order to be truly effective against the spread of HIV/AIDS in Kenya and other areas of the world, policies such as PEPFAR should adopt a woman-centered transformational and structural model of HIV prevention that tackles colonial legacies.

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe Kenyan women’s vulnerability to HIV infection. 2. Critically examine U.S. global HIV prevention policy's reliance on biomedical and cultural models of disease. 3. Delineate the impact of British colonial rule on gender inequality and gender relations in Kenya, as well as contemporary Kenyan women’s status in the existing economic, education, health care, and legal systems. 4. Critique current U.S. global HIV prevention policy and make recommendations for future strategies.

Keywords: Women and HIV/AIDS, Public Policy

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Any relevant financial relationships? No
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