KARACHI – Women and girls living with HIV/AIDS must have access to the anti-retroviral medicines that will save their lives, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a statement released in Karachi on December 5.
WHO has called upon countries to set specific national targets for treatment of women and girls and to take measures to ensure equitable access to AIDS prevention and treatment services.
Although 47 percent of people infected with HIV around the world are women and girls, there is currently no reliable information on how many of them receive treatment. “Most countries collect general data on the number of people being treated, but this is generally not broken out by sex or by age,” the
Statement said, adding, “if countries are to ensure and monitor equitable access to treatment, they will need to collect data not only on who is becoming infected but also on how many men, women and children are getting access to prevention and treatment.”
“To ensure equitable access to prevention and treatment services for women and girls, it is important for countries to set their own national targets,” said Dr LEE Jong-wook, WHO Director-General.
“The targets must match the proportion of men, women and children, who are living with HIV and in need of treatment.”
WHO is also highlighting the need to address violence against women and girls as an integral part of the response to the AIDS pandemic.
Violence against women is widespread. Estimates suggest that between one in three and one in five women globally have been physically and sexually assaulted by intimate partners in their lifetime.
Studies from Rwanda, South Africa and the United Republic of Tanzania show up to three-fold increases in risk of HIV among women, who have experienced violence compared to those who have not. “Studies also suggest that for many young women, the first sexual encounter is coerced or unwanted.”
The risk of HIV transmission increases when sex is forced, especially for girls and young women, because their vaginal tracts are immature and tear easily.
“Violence against women can not be tolerated at any level,” said Dr Peter Piot, UN AIDS Executive Director. “The fear of violence prevents many women from accessing HIV information, from getting testing and seeking treatment. If we want to get ahead of the epidemic we must put women at the heart of the AIDS response.”
Violence against women and girls in its different forms increases women’s vulnerability to HIV infection and undermines AIDS control efforts.
Source: Business Recorder