Gender refers to the specific norms and roles that apply to women and men in society, which are of culture-dependent.
NTDs affect women and men differently. This may be at a physical level, e.g. lymphatic filariasis frequently causing hydrocele in men, though more often disability affects gender roles at a social level. For example, a man may not be able to carry out his expected role as breadwinner, due to trachoma-related visual impairment. NTD-related stigma often affect women more severely than men, because women already have a more vulnerable position in society, fewer opportunities for education, etc.
For which NTDs is this relevant?
Many gender issues are not NTD-specific, but relate to the existing disadvantaged position of women in many societies and to the way poverty may aggravate these. However, NTD-related stigma and discrimination also worsens pre-existing disadvantages. Therefore, women affected by NTDs such as lymphatic filariasis, leprosy, Buruli Ulcer, onchocerciasis and leishmaniasis are likely to be affected more severely. For example, the lymphatic filariasis related lymphedema is perceived to affect beauty and can have a more severe impact on women. It is known that sometimes they are abandoned by their husband, which increases their vulnerability. Another example of gender equality is that in South Asia women are occasionally prohibited to seek medical attention for schistosomiasis.
Since gender issues apply universally, they also require a cross-NTD approach in NTD programs. Specific interventions may be needed for people affected by NTDs that are especially stigmatized. These can be cross-NTD interventions in areas where such NTDs co-occur, or can use similar approaches where this is not the case.