Brazil Curbs Feminization of HIV/AIDS

A nurse hugs an AIDS patient.BRASILIA, Brazil - HIV infection rates among women in Brazil increased by 44 per cent between 1996 and 2005. Globally and in every region, more women than ever before are now living with HIV - with an estimated 17.7 million women living with HIV in 2006. The Brazilian Government in conjunction with UNFPA, UNIFEM, UNICEF have pioneered an anti-HIV plan, the first of its kind in Latin America, to curb the feminization of HIV infections and raise awareness and help women become less vulnerable to HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

Since 1985, the percentage of women living with HIV/AIDS has risen from 35 per cent to 48 per cent globally. Of particular concern are the dramatic increases in HIV infection among young women, who now make up over 60 per cent of 15-24 year-olds living with HIV/AIDS.

The Brazilian Government, UNFPA and other partners hope to:

  • Expand voluntary testing in order to double the number of women tested for HIV from 35 per cent to 70 per cent.
  • Reduce, by 2008, mother-to-child transmissions of HIV from 4 per cent to less than 1 per cent of infants infected with the virus.
  • Increase female condom procurement from 4 million this year to 10 million in 2010.
  • Eliminate congenital syphilis.
  • Invest in research about the epidemic.

"Only by addressing the specific needs, as well as the human rights of women, will we change the course of the epidemic," says UNFPA Representative in Brazil, Alanna Armitage. "The United Nations Population Fund is deeply committed to advocating for the human rights of women and we are convinced that the plan launched in Brazil will make a real difference in women's lives."

Ana Falú, Regional Programme Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), says that the rise in the number of infections among women is a global phenomenon, which reflects the inequalities in power relations between women and men. "This demands specific attention, and that's why the Brazilian plan is so important."

Girls and women are more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, but can also help change the course of the epidemic. "However, it should be clear that stopping the feminization of the epidemic is everyone's responsibility, men and women," says Marie-Pierre Poirier, Representative of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Brazil.