Inequalities fueling HIV/AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa, warns UN

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Children living with HIV lack access to treatment, girls, young women 3 times more vulnerable to infections, says new UN report

Widespread inequalities are fueling the spread of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, a top UN official warned on Wednesday.

“An inequality that really breaks my heart is the inequality against children living with HIV,” UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said at the launch of a new report in Tanzania.

“With the science we have today, no baby should be born with HIV and no child who is HIV positive should be without treatment. We have everything,” she said.

The report, titled Dangerous Inequalities, has been released ahead of World AIDS Day, marked globally on Dec. 1.

“Here in Tanzania, 87% of adults living with HIV are on treatment. This is remarkable … but only 60% of children who are living with HIV are on treatment. There is a gap,” said Byanyima.

Citing UNAIDS data, she said children account for only 4% of the total HIV/AIDS patients in the world.

“But when we count those who are dying … children are 15% of the total number,” she said.

“It tells you we are leaving children behind and we must do something. We can’t allow this avoidable injustice to continue.”

According to UNAIDS research, teenage girls and young women throughout sub-Saharan Africa are three times more likely to contract HIV than men in the same age groups.

“The world will not be able to defeat AIDS while reinforcing patriarchy. We need to address the intersecting inequalities women face,” said Byanyima, calling for greater support for women’s rights organizations.

Source: AA