A study released yesterday by the World Health Organization (WHO), found that the leading cause of death and disease among women in low and middle-income countries worldwide, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, is HIV/AIDS. Relatedly, the study found that one in five deaths among woman is attributable to the risk factor of unsafe sex. The most important risk factors for death or disability related to HIV/AIDS are lack of access to contraception and unsafe sex. Additionally, the report shows that 80 percent of healthcare and 90 percent of HIV/AIDS related care occurs in the home and is administered mostly by women.
In addition to data on incidence and mortality associated with HIV/AIDS, the study sought to document the health disparities that exist among men and women worldwide. For example, the study also noted severe life expectancy disparities between women living in high-income countries versus those residing in low-income countries, where 99 percent of maternal deaths occur each year.
The report also recognizes the social and political factors that contribute to health disparities including lack of access to education, income, discrimination, violence and poverty. In a statement, Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the WHO explained that “this report reveals, the obstacles that stand in the way of better health for women are not primarily technical or medical in nature. They are social and political, and the two go together.”
“With the launch of this report, WHO intends to start a broad policy dialogue to work out an agenda for change both within and well beyond the health sector,” said Chan.