UNITED NATIONS, New York — HIV/AIDS will not be stopped unless leaders at all levels act now to boost comprehensive prevention efforts targeting vulnerable groups such as women, injecting drug users and sex workers, according to Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.
Responding to new statistics released today by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World Health Organization (WHO), Ms. Obaid said that the widening scope of the epidemic, which is affecting more and more women, calls for an urgent increase in effective prevention efforts. Vital in this response is access to condoms, the integration of HIV prevention with sexual and reproductive health care, and increased attention to the gender inequalities that fuel the pandemic. UNFPA is one of the co-sponsors of UNAIDS.
“What we see today further confirms the importance of a comprehensive and integrated approach to HIV/AIDS prevention,” said Ms. Obaid. “Universal access to prevention, treatment and care must be the ultimate goal. HIV/AIDS will continue to spread so long as women, girls and vulnerable groups are marginalized, disenfranchised and stigmatized.”
While highlighting some success stories, the joint UNAIDS-WHO AIDS Epidemic Update tells a troubling tale. More than 40 million people are living with HIV around the world - double the number in 1995, the report documents. Three million people died of AIDS-related diseases in 2005, and an increasing number of women are being infected with HIV.
Highlighting an urgent global need to scale up comprehensive long-term prevention programmes, the report confirms the fact that abstinence and fidelity alone are not enough to stem the tide of new infections. In many countries, marriage and women’s own fidelity do not guarantee them protection from HIV infection. The report also shows how prevention efforts that target those who engage in sex work or inject drugs play a “significant role in stemming the rate of spread in many parts of the world”. Condom use also contributes to a decline in the rate of sexually transmitted infections.
“This confirms what we’ve known for many years now,” said Ms. Obaid. “While abstinence and fidelity are very important and necessary components of HIV prevention, they must be promoted along with other prevention efforts, including access to both male and female condoms. Women and vulnerable groups have the right to protect themselves. We must carry out our duty to provide them with the means to enjoy this basic human right.”
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UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is an international development agency that promotes the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity. UNFPA supports countries in using population data for policies and programmes to reduce poverty and to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV/AIDS, and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect.
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