UNAIDS: Urgent need to increase HIV prevention in women
To mark International Women’s Day, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has released a report showing that there is an urgent need to increase HIV prevention and treatment services for women and girls around the world. The report, titled ‘When women lead, change happens’, shows that in 2015, there were 18.6 million women and girls living with HIV around the world, while one million women and girls became newly infected with the virus and 470 000 women and girls died of AIDS-related illnesses. Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS, said: “Women are leading change in increasing demand for and access to HIV and health services. This movement needs to grow to allow families to thrive, societies to flourish and economies to progress. Women’s rights are human rights - no exceptions.” The report revealed that women are more vulnerable to HIV than men, with domestic violence and sexual abuse being shown to increase the risk of HIV among women. Data has also shown that in “high HIV prevalence settings” women who experience intimate partner violence are up to 50 per cent more likely to acquire HIV. It was also found that limited access to education and health services and a lack of power to make decisions about their own healthcare are also contributing factors to women’s vulnerability to HIV. UNAIDS said that just 30 per cent of countries worldwide see equal numbers of girls and boys attend upper secondary school. In Botswana, according to the organisation, every additional year of school has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection by 11.6 per cent among girls. Reaching the targets will require intensified and united efforts, said UNAIDS. The organisation said that combining a range of “evidence-informed health services and structural changes” will be crucial. These changes include ensuring that girls can go to - and stay in - school, that “punitive and discriminatory” laws are reformed and that women and girls will be economically and socially empowered to ensure they have full control of their health rights.