“Violence Linked to Rapid Rise of AIDS in Women”

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From Women’s Enews:

… “Violence against women is both a cause and consequence of HIV and AIDS,” said Ines Alberdi, executive director of UNIFEM, the United Nations Development Fund for Women, at a press conference preceding the international gathering, held in Latin America for the first time. “In order to successfully tackle AIDS, we must address violence against women. Both pandemics are intertwined in a vicious cycle.”

The U.N. General Assembly is set to vote in September on the creation of a unified women’s agency to streamline its fragmented approach to women’s issues and programs. Many activists say the new agency would strengthen the world body’s response to issues affecting women, including violence and AIDS. Several groups lobbied actively for the creation of this agency during the Aug. 3-8 conference.

On Thursday UNIFEM released a report detailing the lack of women’s involvement in anti-AIDS initiatives, even as they become more burdened by the pandemic, and offered a road map to increase female participation by making women key stakeholders in efforts to combat the spread of AIDS.

The feminization of AIDS has been well documented in sub-Saharan Africa, where two-thirds of the world’s HIV-positive people live and where the pandemic has taken its heaviest toll. Outside Africa the disease has affected more men than women and was once concentrated in populations of male drug users, men who have sex with men and sex workers.

But the percentage of infected women has risen steadily over the years. In the Caribbean region overall, the female-male ratio is now 1-to-1 among 230,000 infected people. In Haiti, which now has 170,000 HIV-positive people, unprotected heterosexual intercourse is the main driver of the pandemic.

Nearly one-third, or 32 percent, of newly diagnosed HIV infections and cases of AIDS in the United States stem from high-risk sexual intercourse, although male-to-male sex still remains the main transmission mode. In Western Europe, 42 percent of new infections are attributed to unprotected heterosexual sex. …

Read the whole thing here.

–Ann Bartow

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