oa South African Health Review - Women's health : chapter 21

Volume 2000, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1025-1715



Women continue to occupy a vulnerable position in society, which is reflected in their health status and in their ability to access relevant health services. In the past few years, great strides have been made in policies to improve women's health, including the passage of the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act, the appointment of a National Committee for Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths, and the drafting of the National Contraceptive Policy Guidelines and National Maternity Care Guidelines. However, women's health has yet to improve. Maternal deaths continue to be unacceptably high, even taking into account the effect of HIV/ AIDS on this mortality rate. Women are the majority (59%) of those infected with HIV in this country, which further undermines their health status. Women are still too often victims of violence, with estimates showing that between one in four and one in six women are in abusive relationships. The inadequacy of the health system in caring for victims of violence, as well as in offering women easy access to services such as screening services for cervical cancer and termination of pregnancy, exaccerbates the plight of women in society. This chapter looks at the health status of women in South Africa, the policies designed to improve this and the progress that has been made. It argues that women's health should no longer be seen as limited to reproductive and child health, but should be viewed more holistically, encompassing all the aspects of women's health needs throughout their lives.

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