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HIV/AIDS Advocates Call on Health Officials to Monitor More Closely, Increase Funding for HIV/AIDS Among Women

August 24, 2006

The rapid spread of HIV/AIDS among women -- the so-called "feminization" of the pandemic -- has prompted some HIV/AIDS advocates to call on health officials to focus their attention on the disease among women, Botswana's Mmegi reports. Women account for nearly 60 percent of all HIV cases in Africa, and more than 75 percent of HIV-positive people ages 15 to 24 in South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe are female, Mmegi reports. In south and southeast Asia, 35 percent of HIV-positive people are women, according to Mmegi. Gender discrimination, social limitations, gender-based violence, lack of access to education, employment and decision-making power -- particularly in Africa and Asia -- contribute to the feminization of the pandemic, according to Mmegi. When HIV-positive women in many developing countries try to access medical services, they often suffer human rights abuses, including coerced sterilization and refusal of treatment and contraception, Mmegi reports. Poverty also is a leading factor in the spread of the disease, according to Mmegi. According to the World Health Organization, twice as many HIV-positive women in low-income countries need HIV/AIDS treatment as women in high-income countries. Mary Robinson, executive director of the Ethical Globalisation Initiative and former president of Ireland, said she is frustrated that women's rights were not given more attention at the XVI International AIDS Conference. "Women's rights activists and [nongovernmental organizations] are talked down to rather than actively included in the discussions," Robinson said, calling on women's rights advocates to urge health officials to focus on the issue at the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City in 2008. "We need to improve the conditions under which women can exercise their sexual and reproductive rights," Sara Araya of Chile-based NGO Vivo Positivo, said, adding, "[Y]oung women are most vulnerable but have less access to health services (than men)." According to Promise Mthembu, global advocacy officer of the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS, "Change will only occur if we have legislation. Otherwise, women's rights will remain where they are now ... on paper" (Palitza, Mmegi, 8/22). served as the official webcaster of the conference. View the guide to coverage and all webcasts, interviews and a daily video round up of conference highlights at

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