Time for gender mainstreaming in editorial policies
The HIV epidemic has been continuously growing among women, and in some parts of the world, HIV-infected women outnumber men. Women's greater vulnerability to HIV, both biologically and socially, influences their health risk and health outcome. This disparity between sexes has been established for other diseases, for example, autoimmune diseases, malignancies and cardiovascular diseases. Differences in drug effects and treatment outcomes have also been demonstrated.
Despite proven sex and gender differences, women continue to be underrepresented in clinical trials, and the absence of gender analyses in published literature is striking. There is a growing advocacy for consideration of women in research, in particular in the HIV field, and gender mainstreaming of policies is increasingly called for. However, these efforts have not translated into improved reporting of sex-disaggregated data and provision of gender analysis in published literature; science editors, as well as publishers, lag behind in this effort.
Instructions for authors issued by journals contain many guidelines for good standards of reporting, and a policy on sex-disaggregated data and gender analysis should not be amiss here. It is time for editors and publishers to demonstrate leadership in changing the paradigm in the world of scientific publication. We encourage authors, peer reviewers and fellow editors to lend their support by taking necessary measures to substantially improve reporting of gender analysis. Editors' associations could play an essential role in facilitating a transition to improved standard editorial policies.