Women Are More at Risk for Disease and Poor Health 3
Reproductive health problems
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV. A woman
is physically more vulnerable than a man to infections like STIs
and HIV. This is because a man’s semen stays inside her and the
germs it carries can pass through the lining of the vagina into her
blood. And, since a woman often has no signs of infection, she
may not get treatment.
But the problem is really a social one. Women often have
little control over decisions about sex and often cannot refuse
unsafe sex. As a result, millions of women get an STI every
year, and more than 17 million are already infected with HIV.
Without treatment, STIs can cause disabling pain, severe pelvic
inflammatory disease (PID), infertility, problems during pregnancy,
and an increased risk of cervical cancer. Untreated, HIV becomes
AIDS, which causes death.
Frequent pregnancies. In many parts of the world, a third to half
of young women become mothers before they are 20 years old.
Without family planning, many of these women will not have time
to get strong again between births. This puts a woman at risk
for poor health and complications of pregnancy and childbirth.
Frequent childbirth also means she is less able to control her own
life, to get an education, and to learn skills to support herself.
Complications from pregnancy and birth. In the last 40 years,
the number of infant deaths has been greatly reduced. Yet
the number of women who die from pregnancy and birth has
not. Every minute, one woman dies from a problem related
to pregnancy or childbirth. And for every woman who dies
in childbirth, 20 more suffer from injury or infection. This
means that over time, about a quarter of all women living in
poor countries will be seriously affected by complications from
pregnancy and birth.
Unsafe abortion. When a woman tries to end a pregnancy by
having an unsafe abortion, she risks her life. But every day about
60,000 women and girls try to end their pregnancies in unsafe
ways because they have no way to get a safe abortion. Many
are left unable to have children or with lasting pain, infection, and
other health problems.
Female genital cutting. Female genital cutting, in which part or
all of a girl’s outer genitals are cut off, can cause serious health
problems. These include pelvic and urine system infections,
sexual and emotional problems, and difficulties during childbirth.
Yet despite these problems, it continues to be widely practiced.
Every year about 3 million girls are cut, mostly in Africa, and in
some parts of the Middle East and Asia.
STIs and other
infections of the
➤ Because women
must often have
unsafe sex against
their will, STIs are a
➤ Every minute, one
woman dies from a
problem related to
➤ Every year 70,000
women die from
Where Women Have No Doctor 2012