Healthy Women = Empowered Women
Approaching healthcare services is a fundamental right for every individual, regardless of gender, race, or socioeconomic status. Unfortunately, women in Latin America face many difficulties when it comes to access healthcare services. These difficulties are multifaceted and stem from a combination of economic, social, cultural, and structural factors that contribute to the systemic exclusion of women from accessing quality healthcare.
One of the primary challenges that women face in Latin America is the lack of entry to reproductive health services. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 30% of women in Latin America and the Caribbean do not have access to contraception. This lack of connection can lead to unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions, which can cause significant harm to women’s health.
Another significant challenge that women in Latin America face is gender-based violence. Gender-based violence can have severe physical and psychological effects on women, yet many do not receive the necessary care and support. According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), 16 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have laws that criminalize domestic violence, but in most cases, these laws are not enforced.
In addition to these challenges, there are significant disparities in admittance to healthcare between urban and rural areas in Latin America. Rural areas often lack the necessary infrastructure and resources to provide adequate healthcare services, leaving women in these areas with limited access to care.
According to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) 2021 Global AIDS Update, Latin America and the Caribbean is the region with the second-highest number of people living with HIV, with an estimated 2.2 million people. In LAC, women continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS. Here are some of the most recent statistics on women and HIV in Latin America:
Women represent almost half (48%) of all people living with HIV in Latin America and the Caribbean. The rate of new HIV infections among women in Latin America is higher than that of men. In 2019, there were an estimated 87,000 new HIV infections among women, compared to 73,000 among men. In some countries in Latin America, women are more likely than men to be living with HIV. For example, in the Dominican Republic, women represent 58% of all people living with HIV (UNAIDS, 2021).
Women who experience gender-based violence are at higher risk of acquiring HIV. In Latin America and the Caribbean, an estimated 20% of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner in the past 12 months (UNAIDS, 2021).
Young gIrls and adolescents, the most vulnerable
An estimated 29 million children in Latin America live in poverty, and girls are more likely than boys to experience poverty. In many countries in Latin America, girls are more used than boys to drop out of school. This is particularly true for indigenous and Afro-descendant girls (UNICEF, 2021).
Adolescent pregnancy is a significant issue in Latin America, with the region having the second-highest rate of adolescent pregnancy in the world. 2 out of 10 pregnancies in the region occur in women under the age of 20.
Adolescent mothers are more exposed to experience poverty, lower levels of education, and poorer health outcomes. Girls who experience gender-based violence are at higher risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). According to UNICEF, an estimated 18% of girls in Latin America and the Caribbean experience sexual violence before the age of 18.
In many countries in Latin America, child marriage remains a significant issue, particularly in rural areas. Child marriage can have serious consequences for girls’ health and well-being, including early pregnancy and limited opportunities for education and economic empowerment. According to the NGO Girls Not Brides, in Latin America, an estimated 23% of women aged 20-24 were married or in a union before the age of 18.
Some facts that should call civil society, governments and into the action:
In Brazil, the maternal mortality rate is 55 deaths per 100,000 live births (WHO, 2019).
In Mexico, only 39% of births are attended by a skilled health professional (WHO, 2019).
In Guatemala, the maternal mortality rate is 88 deaths per 100,000 live births, and only 48% of births are attended by a skilled health professional (WHO, 2019).
In Bolivia, 41% of women experience gender-based violence (UNDP, 2020).
In Peru, 13% of women report experiencing sexual violence (UNDP, 2020).
In Honduras, only 54% of women receive prenatal care (UNFPA, 2020).