Facts and Figures: HIV and AIDS


  • Globally, there are 16 million women living with HIV, constituting 50 per cent of all adults living with HIV [1].
  • According to the WHO, HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age, worldwide [2].
  • In 2013, almost 60 per cent of all new HIV infections among young persons occurred among adolescent girls and young women; this translates into almost 1,000 young women newly infected with HIV every day [3].
  • There are significant regional differences in the proportion of women living with HIV as compared to men:
    • In sub-Saharan African, women comprise 58 per cent of adults living with HIV.
    • In the Middle East and North Africa, women account for 39 per cent of adults living with HIV.
    • In Latin America, 30 per cent of adults living with HIV are women.
    • In the Caribbean, 50 per cent of adults living with HIV are women.
    • In South and South-East Asia, women account for 38 per cent of adults living with HIV in 2013.
    • Women in Asia also account for a growing proportion of HIV infections, up from 21 per cent in 1990 to 38 per cent in 2013.
    • In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, women account for 36 per cent of adults living with HIV.
    • In Western and Central Europe and North America, 22 per cent of adults living with HIV are women [4].
  • Adolescent girls and young women account for one in four new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa [5].

Factors that fuel HIV

  • Violence against women and girls increases their risk of acquiring HIV [6]. A 2010 longitudinal study conducted in South Africa showed that power inequity in relationships and intimate partner violence were associated with increasing the risk by 11.9 per cent and 13.9 per cent, respectively, among young South African women [7].
  • Women living with HIV often experience violence due to their HIV status [8], including violations of their sexual and reproductive rights [9]. Involuntary and coerced sterilization and abortion among women living with HIV has been reported in at least 14 countries worldwide [10].
  • Women’s access to property and inheritance rights can be critical in preventing HIV. A baseline study conducted in nine countries (Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe) found that stigma associated with HIV-positive status was a significant deterrent to reporting or pursuing property and inheritance rights violations [11].
  • Legal norms directly affect women’s risk of acquiring HIV [12]. In many countries where women are most at risk, laws to protect them are weak [13]. A lack of legal rights reinforces the subordinate status of women, especially in relation to women’s rights to divorce, to own and inherit property, to enter into contracts, to sue and testify in court, to consent to medical treatment and to open a bank account [14].
  • Discriminatory criminal laws linked to HIV can disproportionately affect women, as they are more likely to be tested and know their status through antenatal care [15]. HIV-positive mothers are criminals under all of the HIV laws of West and Central Africa, which explicitly or implicitly forbid them from being pregnant or breastfeeding, lest they transmit the virus to the fœtus or child [16].

The response to HIV

  • HIV treatment coverage in low-, and middle-income countries reached only 34 per cent of people who need it [17].
  • More than half of the UNAIDS Global Plan’s 21 priority countries are failing to meet the needs for family planning among at least 25 per cent of all married women [18].
  • Globally, only 21 per cent of female adolescents aged 15-19 have comprehensive knowledge of HIV [19].
  • Governments increasingly recognize the importance of gender equality in national HIV responses. However, according to UNAIDS, only 57 per cent (of 104 reporting countries) had an HIV strategy that included a specific budget for women [20].


[1] UNAIDS, 2014, The Gap Report, p. 127.

[2] WHO Fact Sheet N. 334.

[3] UNAIDS 2013 estimates, cited in ibid. p. 127, 135.

[4] Proportions calculated from the unrounded 2013 HIV estimates published in UNAIDS, 2014, The Gap Report, p. A30-A35.

[5] UNAIDS, 2014, The Gap Report, p. 5.

[6] R. Jewkes et al., 2006, “Factors Associated with HIV Sero-Status in Young Rural South African Women: Connections between Intimate Partner Violence and HIV,” International Journal of Epidemiology,35, p. 1461-1468; R. Jewkes, 2010, "HIV/AIDS. Gender inequities must be addressed in HIV prevention," Science329(5988), p. 145-147; J. Silverman et al., 2008. “Intimate Partner Violence and HIV Infection among Married Indian Women,” JAMA 300(6), p. 703-710; R. Stephenson, 2007, “Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Domestic Violence: The Sleeping Giants of Indian Health?” Indian Journal of Medical Sciences, 61(5), p. 251-252; K. L. Dunkle et al., 2004. "Gender-Based Violence, Relationship Power, and Risk of HIV Infection in Women Attending Antenatal Clinics in South Africa," Lancet, 363 (9419), p. 1415-1421; and L. Manfrin-Ledet and D. Porche, 2003. “The State of Science: Violence and HIV Infection in Women,” Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care, 14(6), p. 56-68.

[7] R. Jewkes, et al. Intimate partner violence, relationship power inequity, and incidence of HIV infection in young women in South Africa: a cohort study, The Lancet, 3–9 July 2010, p. 41–48

[8] WHO and UNAIDS, 2010. Addressing violence against women and HIV/AIDS: What works?, p. 33.

[9] UNAIDS, 2012, Together We Will End AIDS,p. 73.

[10] UNAIDS, 2014, The Gap Report p. 127.

[11] UN Women, 2014, Fact Sheet: Promoting the Legal Empowerment of Women in the Context of HIV/AIDS

[12] “Advancing Human Rights and Access to Justice for Women and Girls”, What works for women and girls.

[13] Stella Mukasa and Anne Gathumbi, 2008, HIV, Human Rights and Legal Services in Uganda: A Country Assessment, New York, Open Society Institute; Tamar Ezer, Kate Kerr, Kara Major, Aparna Polavarapu and Tina Tolentino, 2006, “Child Marriage and Guardianship in Tanzania: Robbing Girls of their Childhood and Infantilizing Women,” Georgetown Journal of Gender and Law, 7(357), p. 362; and Tama Ezer, Aisha Glasford, Elizabeth Hollander, Lakeisha Poole, Grant Rabenn and Alexandria Tindall, 2007, “International Women's Human Rights Clinic Report: Divorce Reform: Rights Protection in the New Swaziland,” Georgetown Journal of Gender and Law, 8(883), p. 889.

[14] “Advancing Human Rights and Access to Justice for Women and Girls”, What works for women and girls.

[15] International Planned Parenthood Federation, ICW Global, GIZ, UNAIDS and the Global Coalition of Women and AIDS, 2011, Piecing it Together for Women and Girls: The Gender Dimension of HIV-related Stigma—Evidence from Bangladesh, the Dominican Republic and Ethiopia.

[16] Global Commission on HIV and the Law, 2012, Risks, Rights, and Health, p. 23.

[17] UNAIDS, 2013, AIDS by the numbers, p. 6.

[18] UNAIDS, 2014, The Gap Report, p. 42.

[19] UNAIDS, 2013, Children and AIDS: Sixth Stocktaking Report. p. 73.

[20] UNAIDS, report on the UNAIDS 2014-2015 results, accountability and budget matrix (UNAIDS/PCB(32)/13.9), p. 52.

[Page last updated February 2015.]