25 July 2012

Africa: Turning the Tide for Women, Children and Youth

press release

Wednesday, 25 July 2012 (Washington, D.C., United States) — Women are still bearing the burden of the HIV/AIDS three decades into the epidemic and need to be a priority in research, care, treatment at all levels, experts told delegates today at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) taking place in Washington, D.C. this week.

It estimated that out of the 34 million adults worldwide living with HIV and AIDS half are women. Generally women are at a greater risk of heterosexual transmission of HIV. Biologically women are twice more likely to become infected with HIV through unprotected heterosexual intercourse than men. In many countries women are less likely to be able to negotiate condom use and are more likely to be subjected to non-consensual sex. Women's childbearing role means that they have to contend with issues such as mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The responsibility of caring for AIDS patients and orphans is also an issue that has a greater effect on women.

"We cannot even begin to talk about ending AIDS when so much of the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to be so heavily skewered towards women," said Dr. Diane Havlir, AIDS 2012 U.S. Co-Chair and Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

"The great strides we have seen in reducing mother to child transmission through antiretroviral drugs need to be replicated elsewhere to alleviate the female burden of this epidemic - new preventative technologies such as post-exposure prophylaxis and microbicides are going to be the key."

A regional session will be held today on Middle East and North Africa: Getting HIV and AIDS down to zero in the Arab States. It continues a focus of the conference on countries and regions that are key to ending the epidemic. The role of emerging countries such as South Africa, Brazil, India and China in their leadership of the epidemic was the subject of a special roundtable session yesterday. The Roundtable featured comments from development economist Jeffrey Sachs with high-level speakers from the four emerging powers offering comments on their countries' accomplishments and look to their future leadership in the epidemic.

"The response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in these countries has brought about some major innovations in their health systems, and in the case of India and Brazil in particular spectacular results in the generic production of antiretroviral drugs," said Dr. Elly Katabira, AIDS 2012 International Chair and President of the International AIDS Society (IAS)." These countries re rightfully shaping their own domestic AIDS policies with less dependence on the international community but at the same it is be hoped that in the future they will play leading roles in the funding of international treatment , care and research programs."

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