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Gender Inequalities: Women and Infants at Greater Risk for AIDS

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are approximately 33.4 million people around the world who are living with HIV/AIDS. Of these 33.4 million infected, half are estimated to be women. Last month at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna attendees discussed how gender inequality contributes to the vulnerability of women and infants, especially in developing countries.

These inequalities among women contribute to HIV transmission rates from mother to child that can occur during pregnancy, labor and delivery, and postnatal breastfeeding. In developing countries, less than half of HIV positive pregnant women have access to treatment. Lack of any antiviral treatments during pregnancy can make the risk of mother to child infection between 25-45 percent. Whereas, in more developed countries, greater access to treatments during pregnancy decreases the risk of transmission to less than 2 percent.

“To deny a woman the tools and information she needs to protect and care for her own health and that of her child is to deny the value of their lives,” said Dr. Brigitte Schmied, president of the Austrian AIDS Society and co-chairperson of the conference. WHO estimates approximately 400,000 infants are infected with HIV each year as a result of mother-to-child transmission. In 2008, about 2.1 million children under 15 were living with HIV, and about 390,000 die each year.

It is the lack of representation in developing countries and prevalence of HIV infection through their partners that continually puts women at high risk. On the other hand, of the 21 most affected countries, in 15 of them, HIV infections are declining among youth. Due to changing habits such as sexual behavior, waiting longer to become sexually active, and having fewer partners, young people are protecting themselves.

However, regardless of demographic, WHO advocates that prevention remains the only way to stay safe.

Source: The Epoch Times

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