- Sub-Saharan Africa
- North Africa/Middle East
- Latin America
- Eastern Europe/Central Asia
- North America, Western/Central Europe
"Women are becoming the main victims of the global AIDS epidemic," says United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan.
Women around the world are increasingly becoming infected with HIV/AIDS, accounting for almost half (48 percent) of people living with the disease as of the end of 2005. If these rates of infection continue, women will soon become the majority of people infected around the world.
Women and girls around the world often are unable to talk with their sexual partners about abstinence, faithfulness, and condom use. They are often blamed for causing AIDS and other STDs and stigmatized once they do have the disease. Gender inequalities and lack of access to prevention and health care services also make women more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS.
Sexual violence increases women's risk as well. This disease has many effects on women, including:
- added responsibilities of caring for sick family members
- loss of property if they become widowed and/or infected
- violent abuse when people find out about their HIV status
Sub-Saharan Africa — Sub-Saharan Africa remains the worst-affected region in the world. In 2005, there were 24.5 million people in sub-Saharan Africa living with HIV. Globally, 64 percent of all people living with HIV live in sub-Saharan Africa. Around 59 percent of all adults living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa are women. Most women with HIV here have been infected by their husbands or sexual partners. Nearly 12 million children under the age of 17 living in sub-Saharan Africa have lost one or both parents to AIDS. Many grandparents, who have lost all of their adult children to the disease, are left raising their grandchildren, many of whom also are HIV positive.
Caribbean — There were 330,000 people living with HIV in the Caribbean at the end of 2005. Adult women make up 51 percent of the total number of people living with HIV in the region. HIV is passed mostly by heterosexual sex in the Caribbean, particularly among sex workers in many places, but the virus is also spreading in the general population.
North Africa/Middle East — In 2005, there were an estimated 440,000 people living with HIV in the Middle East and North Africa. Heterosexual sex is the main way HIV is passed here. High levels of HIV infection (around 15 percent) are also found among men who have used needles for drug use attending drug treatment centers. A study in the Saudi Arabian capital, Riyadh, showed that about half the HIV infections resulted from heterosexual sex. The majority of Riyadh women with HIV were married and likely got the virus from their husbands, who were most likely infected during contact with sex workers.
Oceania — In Oceania there were about 78,000 people living with HIV at the end of 2005. Papua New Guinea's cases account for more than 90 percent all HIV infections reported to date in Oceania and the epidemic is growing at an alarming rate. Women are heavily discriminated against in Papua New Guinea and high levels of sexual violence against women have been reported. Both paid and casual sex encounters are the norm, and there is generally no condom use.
Latin America — There was a total number of 1.6 million people living with HIV in Latin America in 2005, including Central America. In several Latin American countries, high levels of HIV infection (between 2 percent and 28 percent) are found in men who have sex with men. However, in many countries HIV transmission between female sex workers and their clients is another major factor in the spread of HIV. As the epidemic rises, increasing numbers of women are being infected.
Asia — Latest estimates show that some 8.3 million people were living with HIV in Asia at the end of 2005. More than two-thirds of those with HIV live in India. Over a quarter of the total number of people living with HIV in Asia were adult women –2.4 million. Most HIV infections in India are due to unprotected heterosexual sex. Drug use with needles is the main driver of the HIV epidemics in the northeast.
Eastern Europe/Central Asia — There were around 1.5 million people living with HIV in this region at the end of 2005 – an estimated 420,000 adult women. Drug users who have used needles account for more than 70 percent of HIV cases in this region, but only 24 percent of those people are receiving treatment.
North America, Western/Central Europe — There were around 2 million people living with HIV in North America, Western and Central Europe in 2005. The number of people living with HIV in the United States has reached its highest level ever with 1.2 million people living with the virus in 2005. More women are also becoming infected in the United States. AIDS is the leading cause of death among African American women aged 25-34 years (78 percent of whom were infected through heterosexual sex) living in the United States. Canada's epidemic is much smaller and new annual HIV infections have remained at around 2,500 since 2002. In Western and Central Europe there were an estimated 720,000 people living with HIV in 2005. Heterosexual sex is the main way HIV is passed.
The past few years have brought greater attention by the international community to HIV/AIDS, leading to several important initiatives, including:
- The United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS and Declaration of Commitment
- The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria
- The World Health Organization's "3x5 Initiative"
- U.S. President's HIV/AIDS Initiatives
President Bush's fiscal year (FY) 2007 federal budget request includes an estimated $22.8 billion for domestic and global HIV/AIDS activities. This represents an 8.3 percent increase ($1.7 billion) over FY 2006 funding for HIV/AIDS. Federal funding for HIV/AIDS has increased over the course of the epidemic. Approximately $18.9 billion (83 percent) of the FY 2007 HIV/AIDS request is for domestic programs; $3.9 billion (17 percent) is for global programs. Congress will now consider the budget request and is expected to finalize spending levels later this year.