Friday, March 27, 2015

Blog #6: Ebola and Women's Health

As a result of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, women's health gains made prior to the event have been lost. As the epidemic swept the nation, fewer women sought out prenatal care, and even more ceased to seek care for the births of their babies.  Although these services were provided free of charge in Guinea, African women were 'steering clear' since many of the health facilities that provided their OBGYN care were also harboring Ebola victims.  The immunocompromised women did not want to expose themselves to an environment where the disease was running rampant. Furthermore, those who sought out healthcare entered many health facilities only to find that the healthcare providers had fled. Ebola is passed in bodily fluids, which makes childbirth even more hazardous for women and their healthcare providers. Because of this risk factor, women accounted for more of the total Ebola cases at 56 percent, compared to 44 percent of male cases.  Women were also more likely to be infected because they were more likely to be healthcare providers, or simply tend to the sick in their own homes communities. Women were also more likely to be infected by their sexual partners, as gender violence and rape incidences increased with the epidemic, almost 4.5 percent. It was said that the women tried to be more health-conscious, but some of the men did not respect protocol for recovery, which included protecting their spouses and partners through protected sex.  The female's unwillingness to have unprotected sex, and the male's dominance led to and increase in rape and transmission of Ebola through sexual intercourse.

It has taken a long time for Africa to make the gains that we have recently seen in women's health.  They still had a long way to go, but this Ebola epidemic has set them even further back in their progress.  However, I think that their recovery will be much easier since they have already had some experience in making these gains -  now they know how to go about making plans and enforcing them, along with providing health education to the population.  As far as the male violence, I am not surprised, as African societies tend to be patriarchal and contraception is generally shunned.  I do think that the hazards of unprotected sex may not have been stressed enough in the education of the recovery protocol.  It could be possible that the African people did not understand that unprotected sex was transmitting the disease to their loved ones, which continued to infect and sicken their people, if it did not kill them.  Although I am unsure of the educational practices that occurred in the recovery protocol, I feel that this is a large factor in saving people's lives. The better educated they are, and the more they know, the safer they can be.

Megan Wrench

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