New WHO Report Documents Toll of HIV/AIDS on Women

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A new World Health Organization’s report on women’s health highlights the increasing toll HIV/AIDS has taken on women in the developing world. HIV/AIDS is “by far the leading cause of death among adult women in Africa,” the report says. It is also the leading cause of death globally among women of reproductive age.

“Of the 30.8 million adults liv­ing with HIV in 2007, 15.5 million were women,” according to the report, “Women and Health: Today’s Evidence, Tomorrow’s Agenda.” “The prevalence of HIV infection in women has increased since the early 1990s and is most marked in sub-Saharan Africa.”

The report details how women’s vulnerability to HIV infection “stems from a combination of biological factors and gender inequality.” Biological differences are “compounded” by cultural/societal restrictions that limit women’s power to have safe sex and to access to information about avoiding HIV infection.  

The WHO study also notes the heavy toll tuberculosis takes on women, as the second leading cause of death in the Eastern Mediterranean and South-East Asia regions and the fifth leading cause of death of women aged 20 to 59. The three leading causes of death in low-income countries are HIV/AIDS, maternal conditions and tuberculosis, which together account for one in every two deaths. This year, the report says, “a mil­lion women will die from HIV/AIDS, half a million from tuberculosis, and another half a mil­lion from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth.”

Click here to read the full report and associated documents.

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