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On 20th Anniversary of AIDS, Annan Calls for Attn to Women’s Health

With the 20th anniversary of AIDS making headlines around the world, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan chose to highlight the link potential of women’s empowerment to stem the spread of the disease. Addressing the Global Health Council last week, Annan pointed to shifting patterns of infection, “Today, in sub-Saharan Africa, 55 per cent of HIV-positive adults are women. Infection rates in young African women are far higher than in young men. And in the world as a whole, at least half of all new infections are among women.” Annan blamed the higher male to female transmission rates on poverty, abuse and violence, lack of information, coercion by older men, and male promiscuity. The effects of AIDS, he said, are more devastating to families when women are infected, because they tend to be the primary caregivers, and have the potential to pass the infection on to children during pregnancy. Last summer, in preparation for the 13th International Aids Conference, a group of women’s organizations wrote an open letter to South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki arguing that gender inequality is the key obstacle to AIDS prevention. They noted that the number of women’s HIV infection is skyrocketing in countries where women’s sexual and reproductive rights are violated.

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Sources:

Global Health Council Ð June 6, 2001 and Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report Ð June 4, 2001 and Associated Press Ð May 31, 2001 and The Mail and Guardian (South Africa) Ð August, 2000 and InfoBeat Ð June 6, 2001

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