U.N. Special Envoy Adresses Effect of HIV/AIDS on Women in Africa
Africa "risks losing its female voices" if nothing is done to halt the continent's rising HIV/AIDS rates, Stephen Lewis, the U. N. Secretary General's special envoy on HIV/AIDS, said Tuesday, the Panafrican News Agency reports. Speaking at the 5th conference of African women ministers and parliamentarians in Sal, Cape Verde, Lewis said that 15 million of the 28 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS are women, and noted that eight million of those women are between the ages of 15 and 25. Lewis attributed the high rates of HIV/AIDS among African women in part to the "betrayal of women by men" and admonished men, calling for them to take action to change the behaviors that place women at risk. Lewis said, "The voices of women would not be heard in African communities in the next few decades if men do no change their predatory behavior towards [women], including rape, inter-generational sex and violence." Lewis added that terminology such as "mother-to-child transmission" of HIV denotes that women are the cause of HIV/AIDS, adding "adult-to-child" HIV transmission may be the preferred term. U.N. Population Fund Director Thoraya Obaid also spoke at the conference, emphasizing the need for "women opinion leaders" to initiate discussion of HIV/AIDS at a "grassroots" level. Obaid, noting that prevention messages reached just 20% of their intended targets, said that, without a cure, prevention and treatment remain the "first line of defense" against HIV/AIDS (Masebu, Panafrican News Agency, 10/16).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.