UN highlights gender-based violence and AIDS treatment

AFRICA: UN highlights gender-based violence and AIDS treatment

JOHANNESBURG, 1 Dec 2004 (PLUSNEWS) - On World AIDS Day the UN has highlighted the importance of treatment, as well as the need to address violence against women and girls, as an integral part of the global AIDS response.

Director-General of the World Health Organisation, Dr LEE Jong-wook, said it was important that countries set their own national targets to ensure equitable access for women and girls to prevention and treatment services.

"The targets must match the proportion of men, women and children who are living with HIV/AIDS and in need of treatment," Jong-wook said in a statement.

Although 47 percent of people infected with HIV around the world are women and girls, there is no reliable information on how many have access to anti-AIDS treatment.

UNAIDS chief Peter Piot stressed that violence against women should not be tolerated at any level.

"The fear of violence prevents many women from accessing HIV information; from getting testing and seeking treatment. If we want to get ahead of the epidemic we must put women at the heart of the AIDS response," he said.

It is estimated that between one in three and one in five of the world's women have been physically and sexually assaulted by intimate partners in their lifetime.

Studies from Rwanda, South Africa and Tanzania show up to three-fold increases in the risk of HIV among women who have experienced violence, compared to those who have not.

The UN warned that unless women and girls became the key focus of prevention, treatment and care programmes, addressing the HIV/AIDS pandemic would remain a considerable challenge in large parts of the world.


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