Women in Africa Most Affected by HIV/AIDS, Need Own U.N. Agency To Address Needs, U.N. Special Envoy Lewis Says
HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects women and girls in Africa, necessitating a new U.N. agency to focus specifically on women and HIV/AIDS, U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis on Friday said at a news conference, Reuters Canada reports. Lewis, who had just returned from a trip to Lesotho and Swaziland, said a recent government study shows that 56% of pregnant women in Swaziland between ages 25 and 29 are living with HIV/AIDS and that about 30% of 15- to 17-year-old girls in Lesotho are living with the disease. An estimated 43% of HIV-positive people ages 15 to 49 in Lesotho are men, and about 57% are women, Reuters Canada reports. The rate of HIV-positive women in Swaziland is "the highest prevalence I have ever encountered in the last five years," Lewis said. He added, "What has happened to women is such a gross and palpable violation of human rights that the funding must be found," saying that a well-funded and influential agency targeting women would reduce the HIV prevalence within the group. According to Reuters Canada, 60% of the world's HIV-positive people live in sub-Saharan Africa. An estimated 4.6% of women and girls ages 15 to 24 in the region are living with HIV, and 1.7% of young men are HIV-positive. "Not only would the women of Lesotho and Swaziland now be far better off, but we could at this point mount an unbridled campaign to demand that gender equality be legislated and enforced in these two countries," Lewis said, adding, "Years from now, historians will ask how it was possible that the world allowed AIDS to throttle and eviscerate a continent -- and overwhelmingly the women of that continent -- and watch the tragedy unfold in real time while we toyed with the game of reform" (Reuters Canada, 3/17).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.