The inclusion of a gender perspective in health seeks to identify social and cultural differences experienced by women, men and other identities, and to discover the impact they have on their relationship with health. While sex, which only focuses on biological differences, can indicate different risk factors or the need for one or other treatment of the same pathology, gender can determine aspects such as, for example, the different possibilities of access to health care services, or better or worse disposition for adherence to treatments.
In the field of research, and despite the recommendations of international organizations such as the World Health Organization, most studies are not yet filtered with this perspective in mind. Similarly, in the case of HIV research, the situation does not change as studies that explore gender differences in the quality of life related to health in people living with HIV are scarce and contradictory.
A group of experts in the field, led by Carmina R. Fumaz, a psychologist from the Fight AIDS Foundation, recently published an article in the scientific journal AIDS CARE showing the results of a study evaluating the differences in Quality of life related to the health of 744 people with HIV according to their gender.
Results show important contrasts. In the case of men, some of the determining factors for a better quality of life related to physical health were, for example, the fact of being employed and not having economic concerns, having internalized the stigma associated with HIV, or a high satisfaction with their image. Regarding women, variables such as the time elapsed since HIV diagnosis (shorter time, better quality of life), or not having experienced situations of rejection and stigma were more important.
If we look at mental health, men were more conditioned by variables such as having a stable partner, healthy behavior, or being able to solve problems. In women, high counts of CD4 cells were decisive, or the degree of self-esteem and satisfaction with body image.
All participants in the study, regardless of gender, agreed that their quality of life improved in the absence of opportunistic infections and the side effects of medication or HIV itself. For mental health, it was also paramount to keep the level of stress low.
Greater work in the role of sex and gender in health would contribute to improving the health status of people in general, and of specific populations, such as people living with HIV. Further studies are needed in this area to draw better conclusions, but, for the short term, and with the certainty that gender analysis must always be accompanied by the search for equity to guarantee equality between women and men, the observed differences allow us to discover new perspectives, raise new questions, open new areas of research and find ways to apply this to the needs and demands of society as a whole.