The United Nations has issued a report warning that there is a global health crisis among women as a result of the significant rise of HIV/AIDS infections. According to UN News Service, women currently outnumber infected men by as many as two to one in southern African countries. According to Stephanie Urdang, UNIFEM’s gender and HIV advisor, women “are often powerless to negotiate safe sex É women have always been the most vulnerable group to HIV,” reports the Associated Press.
The South African newspaper The Star reports that the proportion of women infected with HIV/AIDS has risen to almost 50 percent globally and to approximately 57 percent in sub-Saharan Africa. Dr. Peter Piot, the executive director of UNAIDS, noted that often women have their first sexual experience with men five to 15 years older than them. Piot argues that “if sexual intercourse started between boys and girls of the same age, the epidemic would die out” because often young women do not have power in their relationships to negotiate for the use of condoms or are the victims of nonconsensual sex, reports The Star.
The United Nations 2004 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic was released one week before the International AIDS Conference in Bangkok. The United States recently cut back the number of people attending the conference to one-quarter of those planned, stating that the Department of Health and Human Services has a new policy to reduce travel to scientific meetings, reports the Washington Post. Many of the attendees of the conference, including Piot and other leading scientists, have expressed their disappointment at the Administration’s recent decision to limit the number of US government attendees. Piot argued that “the largest group in the world in terms of AIDS expertise comes from the US, so it’s important this expertise is at the conference.”