Published: 2020-07-24

Inequalities in women’s empowerment and prevalence of HIV in India

Shri Kant Singh, Deepanjali Vishwakarma, Bhawana Sharma, Santosh Kumar Sharma


Background: Over the years, there has been growing evidence of continuous narrowing gender gap in new HIV infections, despite stagnation in overall HIV prevalence in India. Among others, one of the reasons behind the exiting pattern in HIV/AIDS in the country is the poor status of women, lack of control over their sexuality and poor reproductive and sexual rights.

Methods: This paper analyses the troika of women’s empowerment, spousal-violence, and HIV prevalence in India using data from two rounds (2005-2006 and 2015-2016) of Indian DHS having a community-based HIV testing.

Results: Results corroborate the recent spurts in women’s empowerment in India, which cuts across socio-economic groups. It has positively influenced a decline in spousal-violence even in the lowest socio-economic strata despite significant inequality across states. HIV prevalence among women has not been changed over the last decade (0.22% to 0.23%) despite decreased adult HIV prevalence. Women having control over their sexuality is significantly less likely to have HIV infection. Relationship between marital control behavior of husband and HIV prevalence, which was significant in 2005-06 (OR=1.2, p<0.10), has emerged to be insignificant in 2015-16. This means that increasing women's empowerment has altered their HIV prevalence through increasing sexual-rights and reducing the intensity of marital control behavior.

Conclusions: A combative relationship has been established between women’s empowerment and their risk of HIV/AIDS. The results have been consistently showing the variations of inequality in women’s empowerment across different states, consequently affecting the risk of HIV/AIDS. Ensuring sexual-rights of women should be the best strategy.


Empowerment, Inequality, HIV prevalence, Marital control, Sexual rights, Violence

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