Global Health

On World AIDS Day, UN Women Calls for Fast-Tracking Gender Equality to Stem Epidemic

As the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) released its new report for World AIDS Day calling on the world to take a “fast-track approach” over the next five years to end the world AIDS epidemic by 2030, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka reminded the international community that to end AIDS, we must first work to eradicate gender inequality.

via Shutterstock
via Shutterstock

There is no doubt that the international community has made substantial progress on stemming the AIDS epidemic. Since 2001, new HIV infections have fallen by 38 percent worldwide. But that number alone does not tell the full story.

In 2013, almost 60 percent of all new HIV infections among young persons occurred among adolescent girls and young women. That’s almost 1,000 young women newly infected with HIV every day, and according to UN Women, AIDS is the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age (ages 15-49) worldwide. Violence against women, discrimination, lack of education, and poverty make women particularly vulnerable to HIV and create barriers to accessing treatment and care.

“To fast track the end of the AIDS epidemic we must fast track gender equality,” asserted Mlambo-Ngcuka. “We know the critical steps that must be taken on the path to gender equality, and we must scale up and invest in what works for women and girls in the context of HIV and AIDS. This includes empowering women and girls, particularly those living with HIV, and advancing their leadership; eliminating barriers and constraints to women’s access to prevention, treatment and care services; eradicating gender-based violence; and ensuring adequate financing for women’s needs and priorities in the AIDS response.”

She continued, “It is clear that we can end the AIDS epidemic only if we work together to ensure that women can protect themselves from infection, overcome stigma, and gain greater access to treatment and care, as well as live free of violence, coercion, and discrimination.”

The UNAIDS Fast-Track Targets include a short-term goal of achieving “90-90-90” by 2020, or “90% of people living with HIV knowing their HIV status; 90% of people who know their HIV-positive status on treatment; and 90% of people on treatment with suppressed viral loads.” The long-term goal for 2030 is to increase this percentage from 90 to 95, as well as to decrease the number of new infections among adults to 200,000 globally.

The 2014 theme for World AIDS Day is “Focus, Partner, Achieve: An AIDS-free Generation,” which underlines key elements of the Fast-Track initiative, as well as the President’s Emergency-Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which President Obama has attributed to achieving “extraordinary progress in the global fight against HIV/AIDS.”

Visit the AIDS Healthcare Foundation World AIDS Day 2014 website for a list of locations to get tested, as well as a calendar of events in the US and worldwide for the fight against HIV/AIDS and information on memorial services for those who have lost their lives.

Media Resources: The White House 11/29/14; UN Women 11/28/14; UNAIDS 11/18/14

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