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International News

Brazil: AIDS Spreading Six Times Faster Among Teenage Girls

March 16, 2004

Alexandre Granjeiro, head of the Brazilian Health Ministry's division on sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS, said HIV/AIDS is spreading at an alarming rate among teenage girls -- the only category in which the epidemic's growth shows "a huge gender difference."

Although six girls ages 13-19 are infected for every boy in that age group, women still represent a minority of people living with HIV/AIDS in the country of nearly 180 million. Women account for 35 percent of the 138,000 patients currently receiving antiretroviral drugs provided free by the public health system, and they represent 28 percent of the total 277,153 cases registered in Brazil since 1983.

Several factors have contributed to the spread of HIV/AIDS among adolescent girls in recent years. "Besides having less bargaining power to convince their partners to use condoms, girls tend to stop insisting on condom use once the relationship evolves into a more stable one based on ties of affection," Granjeiro said. He noted that girls begin using other contraceptive methods, putting a higher priority on pregnancy prevention. Also, many girls get involved with older men, who have a higher rate of HIV/AIDS and are less willing to use condoms, Granjeiro noted.

Another factor is the increasingly young age at which teenagers become sexually active. A study by UNESCO found that sexual activity begins, on average, between ages 13.9-14.5 among boys, and between ages 15.2-16 among girls. The survey questioned 16,422 students ages 10-24 in Brasilia and 13 state capitals.

The Health Ministry launched a controversial condom distribution program last year in schools in five municipalities as a pilot test. This year, the program will be extended to 205 municipalities that account for nearly half of all HIV/AIDS cases in Brazil. Nearly 2.2 million condoms will be handed out in 900 public schools attended by 540,000 students.

Back to other news for March 16, 2004

Adapted from:
Inter Press Service
03.10.04; Mario Osava

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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