At AIDS Conference, UNFPA to Highlight Increased Feminization of HIV/AIDS; Dismal Lack of Prevention, Treatment for Pregnant Women
11 August 2006
11 August 2006
UNITED NATIONS, New York — As the world prepares for the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto, UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, warns that it is time to deliver universal access to prevention, treatment and support for women and girls living with or threatened by HIV/AIDS. The Conference’s theme is, “Time to Deliver”.
“After 25 years of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, we now see some progress, but more must be done,” says Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, the UNFPA Executive Director. “As we expand treatment, we must invest more in prevention, care and support. We must deliver urgently because the lives of millions of women, men, and young people are at stake.”
“It is time to deliver because the world has moved too slowly in addressing HIV and AIDS,” Ms. Obaid adds. “Gender inequality must be addressed. Stigma and discrimination must be challenged. It is time to act urgently, with the human rights of all underpinning all actions to deliver, finally, on our promises.”
Among no group is HIV infection making greater inroads than women and girls. Worldwide, their numbers continue to overtake or exceed that of men. Seventy-six per cent of all HIV-positive women live in sub-Saharan Africa, while young women comprise 74 per cent of 15-to-24-year-olds living with HIV/AIDS. In the Caribbean, 51 per cent of people living with HIV/AIDS are women, while the rate of female infection in Asia has reached 30 per cent. Millions of pregnant women are unable to protect their babies from infection because they lack much-needed antiretroviral therapy.
The Chief of UNFPA Reproductive Health Branch, Dr. Arletty Pinel, warns that global efforts to reach pregnant women have been a dismal failure. To date, experts estimate, only 1 in 10 HIV-positive pregnant woman gets the medicines she needs to prevent parent-to-child transmission. Even when she gets the life-saving therapy, the treatment often stops as soon as her child is born. This means that the child may live, but the mother will not.
UNFPA and partners support a comprehensive approach that links such prevention to sexual and reproductive health, says the Chief of the UNFPA HIV/AIDS Branch, Dr. Steve Kraus. This includes the prevention of HIV among girls and women, and the prevention of unintended pregnancies among HIV-positive women as well providing them and their families with treatment, care and support.
UNFPA will lead several Conference panels to underline the links between reproductive health and HIV/AIDS prevention and care. Of key interest will be a groundbreaking UNFPA-co-sponsored satellite session to try to tie HIV prevention efforts to the much-anticipated rollout of the new HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccine.
The Government of Canada, UNFPA, UNAIDS and other partners are bringing 250 young people from all over the world for a special youth pre-conference. Held from 10 to 13 August, it will feature panels, satellite sessions and opportunities for exchanging views with and among youth with first-hand experience of the pandemic’s impact.
“The forum is timely since nearly 6,000 youth are newly infected with HIV each day,” says Dr. Kraus. “Of the 1 billion young people aged between 15 and 24, some 10 million are living with HIV, with nearly 50 per cent of new infections occurring in this group. This constitutes one quarter of the world’s 40 million HIV-positive people. We must deliver for them.”
The XVI International AIDS Conference, due to run from 13 to 18 August, will bring together world leaders, scientists, non-governmental organizations and HIV activists to discuss and seek solutions as to why the global HIV response remains far short of needs.
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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