Message of UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka in commemoration of World AIDS Day 2013
UN Women remains committed to the goals of getting to zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS-related deaths.
Today on World AIDS Day, we pay tribute to those working around the world to achieve these goals and reaffirm the strategic importance of getting to zero violence and discrimination against women and girls to make greater progress.
Today women and girls remain hard hit by HIV. Every hour, 50 young women are newly infected. Young women have HIV infection rates twice as high as young men. In sub-Saharan Africa, 76% of young people aged 15-24 living with HIV are female.
Infection rates soar between the ages of 17 and 24 as women are often infected by men who are an average of five years older. The power in these relationships is often unequally held, adding to young women’s vulnerability. Across the world, the other impacts of HIV – stigma, discrimination and violence – affect women and girls disproportionately.
However, we should also recognize that empowering, engaging, and supporting women and girls are among the most effective means to reduce HIV infections. This is especially important for young women. The teenage years represent a window of opportunity: a chance to educate young women and girls to stand up for their rights and reduce their risks of infection.
Studies show that when young people have access to gender-sensitive prevention information and services, they are less vulnerable to HIV. With confidence, knowledge, and support, young women can protect themselves and their communities from infection.
We must place gender equality at the heart of our response at the local, national and global level. UN Women works successfully in many communities with HIV-positive women’s groups to support advocacy and community mobilization, and this approach must be extended and adequately financed.
Young women, girls, and other at-risk groups must be engaged and involved in the development and implementation of all policies and laws that affect them.
Sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services must be honest, gender-sensitive and discrimination-free. In many countries the majority of caregivers in AIDS-affected households are women or girls, doing vital and valuable work that is invariably unpaid and unrecognized - their needs must also be considered.
Getting to zero on HIV requires getting to zero on discrimination, violence, and gender inequality.
Our approach must be comprehensive: empowering women and girls as agents of change, protecting them, and making political and financial commitments to address their needs.
By working together to empower women and other groups affected by HIV to take action themselves, we can accelerate our progress and get closer to ending AIDS. Today and every day, UN Women will stand up and take action for women’s rights, women’s empowerment and gender equality.