UNAIDS director urges greater commitment to full respect for women
The director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Michel Sidibe, is calling on the global community to reaffirm its commitment to achieving full respect for women's rights both as a moral obligation and as a keystone for a safer, fairer and healthier world.
In a message to mark International Women's Day today, Sidibe said empowering this generation of women and girls and closing the gender gap is a central component of the Sustainable Development Goals and is crucial to ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.
"Despite some progress in moving towards gender parity in certain areas, such as education and political representation, many challenges remain. The pace of change in reducing inequality is unacceptably slow."
He said, for example, women continue to earn far less than men and face problems in accessing essential health-care services, including sexual and reproductive health care.
"Every day, more than 40,000 girls are married before their 18th birthday. complications linked to pregnancy and childbirth remain the second-leading cause of death among adolescent girls aged 15 to 19, and it is estimated that around 120 million girls worldwide have experienced rape or other forced sexual acts at some point in their lives," he added.
The UNAIDS official said that the vulnerabilities and risks associated with HIV are closely linked to the gender inequalities woven into the political, economic and social fabric of societies and that AIDS-related illnesses are the leading cause of death globally among women of reproductive age.
According to data released by UNAIDS, in 2014, there were around 220,000 new HIV infections worldwide among adolescents aged 10 to 19, with adolescent girls accounting for 62 per cent of new infections among this age group.
sub-Saharan Africa followed by the Caribbean have the highest incidences of HIV/AIDS, and Sidibe said adolescent girls aged 10 to 19 make up 72 per cent of total new HIV infections among this age group in the African countries.
He said gender-based violence and a lack of control over decisions affecting their own lives increase the risk of HIV infection among women and girls.