LONDON, 2 February 2004 – Existing HIV prevention and protection efforts are failing to stem infections among women and girls because they do not take into account such issues as gender relations and sexual behaviour, according to the United Nations AIDS programme.
"All too often, HIV prevention is failing women and girls," said Dr Peter Piot, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), speaking at the launch of the Global Coalition on Women and AIDS, a UNAIDS-initiated group of leading women and men committed to mitigating the impact of AIDS on women and girls worldwide. "Because of their lack of social and economic power, many women and girls are unable to negotiate relationships based on abstinence, faithfulness and use of condoms. It is precisely to address these inequalities and reduce women’s vulnerability to HIV that the Global Coalition on Women and AIDS has been created."
"This is still a world where girls are second-class citizens. The face of HIV is increasingly a female face, and so much of this is based on violence and discrimination," said Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF, who was also at the conference.
Women are particularly vulnerable to HIV, with about half of all HIV infections worldwide occurring among women. This vulnerability is primarily due to inadequate knowledge about AIDS, insufficient access to HIV prevention services, inability to negotiate safer sex, and a lack of female-controlled HIV prevention methods, such as microbicides.
The Global Coalition on Women and AIDS aims to be a highly-visible group of men and women, including activists, government representatives, community workers and celebrities, that seek to stimulate concrete action on the ground to improve the daily lives of women and girls. Its efforts will focus on preventing new HIV infections among women and girls, promoting equal access to HIV care and treatment, accelerating microbicides research, protecting women’s property and inheritance rights and reducing violence against women.
Women comprise about half of all people living with HIV/AIDS. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 58 percent of those living with HIV were women as of end 2003 and young women aged 15 to 24 were 2.5 times more likely to be infected than young men.
For more information, please contact:
Marixie Mercado, UNICEF NY, Telephone (212) 326 7133
Dominique De Santis, UNAIDS, London, mobile (+41 79) 254 6803 or Geneva (+41 22) 791 4509; Louise Coward, Ogilvy PR Worldwide, London, tel. +44 (0)207 309 1085.
For more information about UNAIDS, please visit www.unaids.org.