Percentage of HIV Cases Attributable to Women Increasing Worldwide, UNIFEM Says
The percentage of HIV cases worldwide attributable to women is increasing worldwide, rising from 35% of cases in 1985 to 48% today, according the United Nations Development Fund for Women, the AP/New York Times reports. The "dramatic" rise in the number of HIV cases among women primarily is because many women are not financially independent, are afraid of violence by men if they demand safe sex and are seen as "socially inferior" in many parts of the world, according to the AP/Times. Stephanie Urdang, gender and HIV adviser for UNIFEM, said at a news conference, "Women are now firmly in the grip of the HIV/AIDS epidemic" (AP/New York Times, 7/9). The increase is part of the "feminization" of the epidemic throughout the world, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. In sub-Saharan Africa, where the "greatest crisis remains," nearly 60% of HIV-positive people are women, according to AFP/Yahoo! News (AFP/Yahoo! News, 7/9). According to Dow Jones International, UNIFEM is set to present a report that calls for increased political commitment, funding and "collective leadership" aimed at gender issues in countries most affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic at the XV International AIDS Conference to be held July 11-16 in Bangkok, Thailand (Dow Jones International, 7/9).
Urdang said that in the United States, the epidemic was thought to be under control because of the availability of antiretroviral drug treatment. However, she added that U.S. women accounted for 25% of the total number of HIV cases in the country in 2003, compared with 20% in 2001, according to AFP/Yahoo! News. In addition, the number of HIV/AIDS cases among U.S. women increased from 180,000 in 2001 to 240,000 in 2003. Urdang said, "A one-third rise is very dramatic." In the United States, black and Latino women comprise 25% of the country's female population but account for 80% of all reported HIV/AIDS cases among women in the country. Urdang said that the high level of sexuality in U.S. popular culture is "having an enormous impact on young people and their minds. Among young people in America, there is a feeling that sex is cool, that it's okay to be growing up and to be sexually experienced." In addition, UNIFEM said that the U.S. education system has not informed young people about prevention, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. Urdang said, "When education is based solely on abstinence, that's all people get. Then in the heat of the moment, ... they have no knowledge of how to deal with the moment," adding, "Women are biologically and socially more vulnerable than men." Urdang said, "If women were able to negotiate safe sex we would have disease and not a raging epidemic" (AFP/Yahoo! News, 7/9).
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation's "Asia Pacific" on Friday included an interview with Amy Clecker of the Association for the Promotion of the Status of Women, a women's shelter in Thailand, and Lucita Lazo, regional director of UNIFEM, about the increase in monogamous, married Asian women with HIV/AIDS (Ng, "Asia Pacific," ABC, 7/9). The complete transcript of the interview is available online. The complete segment is available online in Windows Media.