The need for culturally appropriate, gender-specific global HIV prevention efforts with vulnerable women
More than 25 years into the HIV/AIDS epidemic, women are rapidly becoming the face of the pandemic. An estimated 15.4 million women aged 15 or older are living with HIV—approximately 46% of the global total of people infected with HIV (UNAIDS, 2007). Women in Sub-Saharan Africa are among the most affected by HIV/AIDS, representing 61% of infections among adults in this region (UNAIDS, 2007). Furthermore, it is estimated that 75% of all women living with HIV are in Sub-Saharan Africa (UNAIDS, 2006). With approximately one in three people infected with HIV, Southern Africa continues to be the global epicenter of the epidemic (UNAIDS, 2006) and accounts for more than one third of HIV infections worldwide (UNAIDS, 2008). It is estimated that 52% of all women aged 15 or older living with HIV are in this region (UNAIDS, 2006). Throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, adolescent women, particularly orphans, are at increased risk for HIV.
Women in other parts of the world are also at increased risk of HIV infection. In Asia, for example, HIV prevalence has grown rapidly, and evidence suggests that infection rates among women are increasing more rapidly than among men. In this region, women represent between 22% and 33% of adults living with HIV/AIDS. Among young people aged 15 to 24, women comprise between 28% and 40% of people infected with HIV (UNAIDS, 2006; UNAIDS/UNFPA/UNIFEM, 2004).