Facts and Figures: HIV and AIDS


  • Globally, 54 per cent of all adults living with HIV are women [1].
  • Young women worldwide make up more than 60 per cent of young people living with HIV; in sub-Saharan Africa, their share jumps to 72 per cent [2].
  • Women and girls comprise 58 per cent of sub-Saharan Africans living with HIV; they bear the greatest burden of care [3].
  • In the Caribbean, 53 per cent of adults living with HIV are women [4].
  • In Asia, women account for a growing proportion of HIV infections: from 21 per cent in 1990 to 35 per cent in 2009 [5].

Treatment and prevention

  • To date, treatment for HIV and AIDS has only reached 54 per cent of people who need it [6].
  • In 2011, 30 per cent of pregnant women living with HIV and eligible for treatment were receiving antiretroviral therapy for their own health, compared with 54 per cent of all eligible adults [7].
  • In 26 of 31 countries with a generalized HIV epidemic, less than 50 per cent of young women have comprehensive and correct knowledge about HIV [8].
  • An estimated 50 million women in Asia are at risk of acquiring HIV from their intimate partners. Evidence indicates that these women are either married or in long-term relationships with men who engage in high-risk sexual behaviours [9].

Fostering the spread of HIV

  • Violence against women and girls increases their risk of acquiring HIV [10]. 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.
  • Women living with HIV often experience violence due to their HIV status [11], including violations of their sexual and reproductive rights [12].
  • Women’s access to property and inheritance rights can be critical in preventing HIV. A regional study in South Asia found that women who own property or productive assets have higher incomes, a secure place to live and greater bargaining power within their households, which increases their ability to negotiate safer sex [13].
  • Legal norms directly affect women’s risk of acquiring HIV [14]. In many countries where women are most at risk, laws to protect them are weak [15]. 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 [16].
  • 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 [17]. 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 [18].

Financing for gender equality

  • Governments increasingly recognize the importance of gender equality in national HIV responses. In 2012, 81 per cent of countries reported that they included specific measures for women in national HIV strategies. Only 41 per cent, however, have allocated a specific budget for these activities [19].


[1] UNAIDS Source: Core Epidemiology Slides, November 2012.

[2] UNICEF, 2011, Opportunity in crisis: Preventing HIV from early adolescence to young adulthood, p. 4.

[3] UNAIDS, 2012, Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic, p. 70.

[4] WHO, UNICEF and UNAIDS, 2011, Global HIV/AIDS Response: Epidemic Update and Health Sector Progress towards Universal Access—Progress Report 2011.

[5] UNAIDS, 2010, Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic, p. 35.

[6] Ibid., pg. 51.

[7] UNAIDS, 2012, Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic, p. 47.

[8] Ibid., p. 18.

[9] UNAIDS, 2009, HIV Transmission in Intimate Partner Relationships in Asia, pp. 7-8.

[10] 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, pp. 1461-1468; R. Jewkes, 2010, "HIV/AIDS. Gender inequities must be addressed in HIV prevention," Science 329(5988), pp. 145-147; J. Silverman et al., 2008. “Intimate Partner Violence and HIV Infection among Married Indian Women,” JAMA 300(6), pp. 703-710; R. Stephenson, 2007, “Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Domestic Violence: The Sleeping Giants of Indian Health?” Indian Journal of Medical Sciences, 61(5), pp. 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), pp. 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), pp. 56-68.  

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

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

[13] Hema Swaminathan, Nandita Bhatla and Swati Chakraborty, 2007, Women’s Property Rights as an AIDS Response: Emerging Efforts in South Asia, International Center for Research on Women.

[14] “What works for women and girls

[15] 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.

[16] “What works for women and girls

[17] 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.

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

[19] UNAIDS, 2012, Together We Will End AIDS, p. 70.