- Low status may limit ability to negotiate
safer sex, obtain information and receive health
- Vaginal surface is larger and more vulnerable
to infection than penis
- STDs are often asymptomatic in women and go
- Blood transfusions after delivery may expose
women to HIV and hepatitis B
Women are vulnerable to STDs for social and economic reasons.
Compared to men, women generally have low status, education,
income and power. Social and economic dependency may limit a
womans ability to refuse unsafe sex or negotiate safer
sex. She may also find it difficult to obtain information about
disease prevention, or to seek and receive health care. Women
striving to survive economically also may be drawn into the
sex industry, where STD transmission is common.
Women are also biologically more vulnerable to STDs than are
men. Women are more susceptible to STDs during sexual intercourse
because the vaginal surface is larger and more vulnerable to
sexual secretions than the primarily skin-covered penis. Also,
the volume of potentially infected male ejaculate deposited
in a womans vagina during intercourse is larger than the
potentially infected cervical and vaginal secretions to which
men are exposed.
STDs in women tend to go untreated because they are often asymptomatic.
As already noted, an untreated STD increases susceptibility
to HIV infection.
Because of childbirth complications and post-childbirth anemia,
women sometimes receive blood transfusions after delivery. Receiving
transfused blood from places where the blood supply is not tested
for infection puts women at risk of HIV and hepatitis B.
Programs that are considering their strategic impact on the
STD epidemic may want to focus limited resources for STDs on
women who are at particularly high risk.