February 9, 1995 in Nation/World

More Girls Infected With Aids Health Organization Finds Half Of New Victims Are Females

Associated Press

The pattern of the AIDS epidemic has changed, with women - particularly young girls and adolescents - becoming the fastest-growing group of new HIV infections, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.

Ten years ago, few women were infected with the HIV virus that causes AIDS, but now they represent 50 percent of all new HIV infections, a WHO conference on women and AIDS said. It did not produce the 1985 statistics.

“Every minute of the day, every day of the year, two women become infected by HIV and every two minutes a woman dies of AIDS,” said Dr. Nafsiah Mboi, an Indonesian member of parliament and chairwoman of the U.N. agency’s conference.

Globally, 8 million women are infected by HIV, and 5 million more are expected to develop infections by the year 2000, WHO said. Conservative estimates hold that 16 million adults and 1 million children are infected by the virus, and 4.5 million have developed AIDS.

Mboi blamed the inferior position of women in sexual and economic matters for rising infections among women. In some societies, women are not permitted to talk about sex with men or to negotiate safer sex, she noted.

The three-day conference brought together more than 50 policy makers and AIDS and women’s activists to develop a plan to protect women against the virus.

The meeting, the International Consultation for Policy-makers on Women and AIDS, wrapped up Wednesday. It was sponsored by the U.N. health agency in preparation for the Fourth World Conference on Women to take place in Beijing in September.

Among both men and women, young people are particularly at risk, WHO said.

The agency estimates 60 percent of all new HIV infections in many countries are among 15- to 24-yearolds, with a female-to-male ratio of two to one.

Older women are increasingly at risk, too.

In Africa, the continent worst affected by the epidemic, six women are affected with HIV to every four men, according to conference data. Prostitutes have been hardest hit, with 40 percent to 80 percent of prostitutes in some urban areas in Africa and Asia infected.

The meeting set out several key objectives for policy-makers, including: national legislation to improve women’s status and ensure access to education, legal protection and better economic prospects; research of new safe sex methods to protect women from HIV; and wider coordination of AIDS policies throughout the world.

© Copyright 1995 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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