Many World AIDS Day observances around the world today have focused on the need to protect women and girls from HIV who are contracting the virus at an alarming rate. Peter Piot, the head of UNAIDS, said, “Today the face of AIDS is increasingly young and female. We will not be able to stop this epidemic unless we put women at the heart of the response to AIDS,” reports the Associated Press.
Approximately 39.4 million people are infected with HIV around the world. The World Health Organization estimates that 25.4 million people are infected with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa itself, of which approximately 60 percent are women. According to Reuters, in the Pacific state of Papua New Guinea where multiple wives are common, the number of cases is expected to soar from 67,000 to 1.5 million by 2015-2020 threatening to wipe out a whole generation. In Botswana, where married girls are more vulnerable to contracting HIV/AIDS from their husbands than single women due to their lack power to negotiate the use of condoms or to abstain from sex within marriage, the President of Botswana called on the people to “Abstain or Die” rather than urge for a balance of power within marriage and the eradication of gender discrimination.
In the United States, women now make up 27 percent of the newly diagnosed AIDS cases, which is four times more than the proportion they made up in 1985, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. African-American women account for 67 percent of the new HIV infections amongst women. The leading cause of death among African-American women ages 25-34 is HIV/AIDS, and it is the sixth leading cause of death for women overall, Kaiser reports.