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To Defeat Aids Prioritize Women


There are many reasons for the alarming rates of new HIV infections among young women, including gender-based violence, exclusion from economic opportunities, insufficient access to health care, even a lack of access to secondary education.

The virus is spreading among young women in sub-Saharan Africa.

Much has changed in the thirty-five years since a terrible new disease, known today as HIV/AIDS, was identified. Before, an HIV/AIDS diagnosis was a death sentence: a person with HIV often lived less than a year after it progressed to AIDS.

Today, nearly half of the 37 million people living with HIV/AIDS receive lifesaving HIV treatment allowing them normal lives.

Through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, the United States has been at the forefront of the global response. “PEPFAR is the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease in history,” said U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Deborah L. Birx. “Recent data show the epidemic is becoming controlled in several key African countries, demonstrating the remarkable impact of PEPFAR’s investments.”

Indeed, achieving an AIDS-free generation is now within our reach. “Driven by research and data, our collective efforts have saved millions of lives and are turning the tide against HIV/AIDS,” said USAID Administrator Gayle Smith. “Today, PEPFAR is supporting 11.5 million people globally with life-saving treatment.”

The good news is, according to a recent UNAIDS report, infections in children globally have dropped 51 percent between 2010 and 2015. Simultaneously, annual AIDS-related deaths fell from 2 to 1.11 million.

The bad news is the virus is spreading among young women in sub-Saharan Africa. According to a recent UNAIDS report, last year, nearly one in five [19 percent] new infections worldwide occurred in women between the ages of 15 and 24. Adolescent girls and young women account for nearly 75 percent of new HIV infections among adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa. This is concerning as the 15-24 year-old population in sub-Saharan Africa will have doubled by 2020.

There are many reasons for the alarming rates of new HIV infections among young women, including gender-based violence, exclusion from economic opportunities, insufficient access to health care, even a lack of access to secondary education.

So, through PEPFAR, the United States is working with its partners to reduce, by the end of 2017, new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women by 40 percent in the highest HIV-burden areas of 10 sub-Saharan African countries.

It’s the first time the U.S. government has ever set specific targets for preventing new HIV infections among this group, underscoring the U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls.

“With our partners, we can sustain an enduring legacy of American leadership, compassion, and determination,” said USAID Administrator Smith. “Together, we can end AIDS worldwide by 2030.”

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