Women seen but not heard in the PrEP debate

Over three days of the social media dialogue over PrEP women were mentioned under 6% of the time. It seems incredibly sexist that the PrEP debate is being framed around an acceptance that it is only men that can take choose to take risks.
Why does the debate accept that all men; gay men, bisexual men and trans men take risks but not women?
Somehow there appears to be little space to even consider the notion that women may also be risk takers. When women say ‘We should be part of this debate because we too are risk takers, we too are drug takers, we too enjoy casual sex’, somehow these words are not heard.
It weakens the PrEP case not to include the widest possible range of groups that will benefit from PrEP. It weakens the debate to not hear or see women. People are so caught up in the very righteous fight for PrEP that they are not stopping to consider that risk is risk regardless of who is taking it.
No one group’s risk should be placed above another. It makes no equitable sense nor is it safe to do so. Like anal sex or drugs, risks are enjoyed across the board. But according to the current dialogue apparently women do none of these things; we have safe sex and take few if any drugs. With this attitude you could be forgiven for thinking that we were in 1916 not 2016.

In some debates the contraceptive pill is seen as the trade-off women get for men having PrEP, it allowed our sexual liberation and now they should get theirs. Doesn’t millions of women taking the pill benefit both sexes? Not to mention public health services?

We at the Sophia Forum deplore the use of our ‘hard fought rights which allow women agency but benefit all in society’ to be used in such a flippant manner to structure a moral case for PrEP.

PrEP reduces and even eliminates risk. Providing it across the board is kind, decent and makes economic sense. Prior to the Public Health England Decision on PrEP Sophia Forum were happy to add our voices to a united fight for PrEP but in the aftermath we have seen women fall almost completely off the radar.

Sophia Forum wholeheartedly supports the introduction of PrEP but we feel we cannot stand by and watch as women are denied the right to own their own risk. PrEP should be made available as quickly as possible to everyone at risk from getting HIV. We do not need to qualify that statement comparatively.

When it comes down to it can you imagine a world where someone is denied a nicotine patch because they’re a woman?

The Sophia Forum Board
Memory Sachikonye (Co-chair), Lynda Shentall (Co-chair), Emma Bell, Susan Bewley, Kath Charters, Felicity Daly, Rachel Ekiring, Juno Roche, Jacqui Stevenson, Sophie Strachan

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