[Marxism] UN: women bearing brunt of AIDS epidemic
sandinista at shaw.ca
Tue Mar 9 13:17:58 MST 2004
UN: women bearing brunt of AIDS epidemic
By Evelyn Leopold
08 Mar 2004 20:37:00 GMT
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Women are now bearing the brunt of the AIDS
epidemic, especially among young adults, in what U.N. Secretary-General Kofi
Annan on Monday called a "terrifying pattern" in the galloping disease.
Opening a session to mark International Women's Day, Annan said that women
and girls accounted for more than half of the estimated 5 million
newly-infected people with AIDS or HIV, the virus that causes the disease.
Moreover, among young people below 24 years of age, females make up nearly
two thirds of those with HIV.
"Even a decade ago, statistics indicated that women were less affected,"
Annan said, "But a terrifying pattern has since emerged. All over the world
women are increasingly bearing the brunt of the epidemic."
The global AIDS epidemic crossed a significant threshold in 2003 when for
the first time, U.N. statistics showed nearly half of those living with HIV
were women, up from 41 percent six years ago. Many of the young women are
married to older men, who had affairs and brought the disease home.
Some 40 million people are living with AIDS worldwide, most of them in
sub-Sahara Africa by the end of 2003, of which 19 million were women.
Jordan's Queen Noor told the meeting that in the Middle East a modest
600,000 people were thought to be living with HIV/AIDS and about 45,000 died
But despite the seemingly low rates, 55 percent of those infected were
female as of 2002.
"Our strong sense of family and religious traditional may inhibit behavior
that spreads the virus, but at the same time those traditions may inhibit
testing and reporting of those who may be infected," she said.
Queen Noor, the widow of King Hussein, questioned the low rates because of
the widespread stigma attached to the disease, saying many who carried the
virus would simply rather die than be rejected by friends and family,
"HIV is not simply a public health crisis but a human rights issues and
especially a women's rights issue," she said. "They bear the children but
seldom control their own sexual lives. They hold communities together but
are marginalized in the political life."
Noleen Heyzer, executive director of the U.N. Development Fund for Women,
told a news conference that violence, rape, economic deprivation and lack of
education made women more susceptible to unwanted sex.
"Younger and younger girls, caught in an economic crisis are marrying older
and older men," she said.
In one recent survey in South Africa, over a third of young women reported
they were afraid of refusing sexual advances with about a third reporting
that their first sexual encounter was forced, the United Nations reported,
But the increase in women's infection is not limited to Africa. U.N. figures
show rates for women in Asia have increased to 30 percent from 20 percent a
few years ago and are expected to rise again. Some 8 million people in the
region are afflicted with AIDS.
Annan and others called for men to be involved in reducing the number of
AIDS cases among women. They should "ensure an education for their
daughters, abstain from sexual behavior that puts others at risk, forgo
relations with girls and very young women..." he said.
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"The obstacles are ideological rather than political. It is the expression
of patriarchal thought that permeates everything, that makes for a one-sided
vision of society ... Not only is there tremendous ignorance of a feminist
agenda, but when it is addressed it is addressed paternalistically,
condescendingly, in welfare terms. We are lacking in
profound and serious reflection on the subject." -Sofia Montenegro,
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