As of 2006, almost half of all people living worldwide with HIV/AIDS were women (UNAIDS, 2006). In sub-Saharan Africa, however, women now represent 59 percent of all people living with HIV/AIDS, and the proportion is growing (see Figure 2-2) (UNAIDS, 2006). Today’s statistics are the product of a trend toward increasing rates of infection among women, given that the pandemic started in men. The reasons underlying this trend include the inferior social and economic status of women in many countries, which affects their chances of gaining access to either means for prevention of or treatment for HIV/AIDS and related complications; violence against women and girls, including domestic, sexual, and war-related violence; and biological factors that increase the susceptibility of women to infection. UNAIDS has expressed concern about gender-based inequalities in access to treatment, with some evidence of women paying more for services and being hospitalized less frequently when clinically appropriate (UNAIDS, 2004b).
Teens and young adults (aged 15 to 24) continue to be at the center of the epidemic with heavy concentrations among those newly infected, accounting for more than 40 percent of new adult HIV infections in 2000. In sub-Saharan Africa, three young women are infected for every young man in this age group. The situation is similar in the Caribbean, where young women are about twice as likely as men their age to be infected with HIV (UNAIDS, 2006).
Biological characteristics place women at greater risk than men of contracting the virus from engaging in unprotected sex, but gender disparities