Rare condition that strikes only one in 115,000 women

WOMEN WITH AIS: American jazz singer Eden Atwood (above) and Indian athlete Santhi Soundarajan (top). - PICTURES: AFP, MUSIC KARMA

What is Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS)?

It occurs when the patient's body is not able to recognise or respond to androgens, the male hormones.

To what degree can AIS happen?

  • Complete: When the patient looks like a woman.
  • Partial: When the male genitalia is not fully formed.
  • Mild: When the patient looks like a man

How rare is AIS?

It is very rare. A recent Netherlands study shows that only one in about 115,000 people suffer from it.

How is AIS usually diagnosed?

When patients seek help for abnormal genitalia, abnormal secondary sexual characteristics such as breasts in men and excessive hair growth in women, and menstrual issues, doctors can diagnose AIS via blood tests.

Some famous women who have AIS:

Santhi Soundarajan

During the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, Qatar, Soundarajan, then 25, represented India and won the silver in the women's 800m race. She was stripped of her medal after the International Association of Athletics Federations' (IAAF) panel of doctors examined her and found her to have AIS.

Caster Semenya

She won a gold medal for the 800m race at the 2009 IAAF World Championships in Berlin when she was 18, beating some of the world's fastest women. But her win was tainted by news that she had been gender tested by sporting authorities at the African Junior Championships three weeks before. However, she was allowed to keep her medal despite testing positive for AIS.

Eden Atwood

The American jazz singer first addressed her condition in the liner notes of her 2002 album Waves: The Bossa Nova Session. She went on to co-found an advocacy group for those who have a similar condition, called The Interface Project.