Concern staff member counsels an HIV positive woman in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Photo: Cheney OrrConcern staff member counsels an HIV positive woman in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Photo: Cheney OrrConcern staff member counsels an HIV positive woman in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Photo: Cheney Orr

Addressing Inequalities to end AIDS

Addressing Inequalities to end AIDS
Story1 December 2021Breda Gahan

40 years on, women and girls most impacted – the face of HIV in 2021 is an adolescent girl.

In 2020, there were 37.7 million people living with HIV globally, and 53% are women and girls.

Women and girls accounted for 50% of all new infections in 2020. Every week, around 5000 young women aged 15–24 years become infected with HIV.

  • In sub-Saharan Africa, six in seven new HIV infections among adolescents aged 15–19 years are among girls. Young women aged 15–24 years are twice as likely to be living with HIV than men.
  • Around 4200 adolescent girls and young women aged 15–24 years became infected with HIV every week in 2020.
  • More than one third (35%) of women around the world have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner or sexual violence by a non-partner at some time in their lives.
  • In some regions, women who have experienced physical or sexual intimate partner violence are 1.5 times more likely to acquire HIV than women who have not experienced such violence.
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, women and girls accounted for 63% of all new HIV infections in 2020.

85% of pregnant women living with HIV had access to antiretroviral medicines to prevent transmission of HIV to their child in 2020.

Gender inequality leaves women and girls more vulnerable to HIV

Gender inequalities and gender-based violence restrict the rights of women and adolescent girls, including their ability to refuse unwanted sex or negotiate safer sex, and to access HIV and sexual and reproductive health services.

In sub-Saharan Africa, these factors combine to leave adolescent girls and young women at higher risk of HIV. In this region, which has a high HIV burden: six out of seven new infections among adolescents (aged 15 to 19 years) are among girls; adolescent girls and young women (aged 15 to 24 years) account for 25% of HIV infections, despite representing just 10% of the population.

Gender inequality leaves women and girls more vulnerable to HIV.
Gender inequality leaves women and girls more vulnerable to HIV.

AIDS-related causes are the leading cause of death for adult women (aged 15 to 49 years)

Concern responses in 2020

Working in partnership with Sonke Gender Justice, a South African NGO specialising in gender equality, prevention of gender-based violence and HIV, Concern Worldwide aims to standardise our gender transformational approach and build internal capacity to improve our integrated HIV response programming www.genderjustice.org.za

The aim of Concern’s HIV and AIDS work ongoing is to help reduce new HIV infection and to minimise the impact of HIV and AIDS among people living in extreme poverty, through mainstreaming and integrated responses in all sector programmes, and in support of national government efforts within host countries.

In Chad, the focus is on sensitization and education on HIV. During mobile clinics, free and voluntary testing for HIV is offered, especially to pregnant women who come for antenatal consultations. Main topics discussed with target communities were on hygiene awareness, exclusive breastfeeding, food diversity, sexually transmitted infection (STI) and HIV prevention and on gender-based violence topics.

In Democratic Republic of Congo, Ebola outbreaks lead to increased morbidity and mortality in vulnerable populations including children, women, people living with HIV and AIDS and other chronic conditions, populations living in rural areas and isolated areas with poor access to health care, and those living in areas affected by population movement. Concern continues to support Ebola and HIV outbreak responses in DRC.

The Ethiopia emergency nutrition response for displaced people includes all vulnerable refugees with special nutritional needs such as those living with HIV and/or TB. Women living with HIV and AIDS and other disabilities are prioritized during targeting and beneficiaries selection in all of the emergency response programmes.

Bilkisu Jah and Roseann Kanu, Concern Worldwide Freetown. 16 days of Activism 2021, Orange the World: End Violence Against Women, 25th November to 10th December 2021. Photo: Charlotte Woellwarth
Bilkisu Jah and Roseann Kanu, Concern Worldwide Freetown. 16 days of Activism 2021, Orange the World: End Violence Against Women, 25th November to 10th December 2021. Photo: Charlotte Woellwarth

In the Malawi graduation programme, the findings from the annual outcome survey positively showed that women consultation in key areas of household decision-making has improved by 11% from baseline to 48% (Year 4) for graduation households. Messaging on HIV and AIDS are disseminated to target household and communities during activities including trainings and at coordination meetings.

Concern Pakistan with partner organisations in 2020 marked all international days of equality (e.g. International Women’s Day, 16 Days of Activism, International Boys and Men’s Day, International Day of People With Disabilities, HIV and AIDS etc.). As part of the 16 days of activism, a webinar session was conducted with Concern and partner staff on “Preventing Gender-Based Violence.”

In Bangladesh, dissemination of awareness-raising and education messages on HIV and AIDS by a trained group of volunteers and Change Makers targeting women especially was conducted.

In Cibitoke and Kirundo provinces in Burundi, trained Care Group Volunteers raised awareness in the community on prevention measures against HIV and AIDS, and the project encouraged pregnant women to take early antenatal care consultations to be tested for HIV, so as to intervene with prevention of mother-to-child transmission as necessary.

The WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) programme in Sierra Leone explained to programme participants that no one will be discriminated against due to their HIV and AIDS status, promoting equality of all.

During Self Help Groups' trainings in Somalia, the programme delivered sessions on HIV AIDS, including on transmission, prevention, myths and misconceptions about HIV and AIDS, and on the importance of protecting women and girls.

Integrated Health and Nutrition, WASH and Food Security Programme in Aweil West and Aweil North in South Sudan increased awareness and knowledge during World AIDS Day 2020 sessions. Relevant staff were informed on the referral pathway for HIV and AIDS cases diagnosed in a health facility so that timely treatment could be initiated.

In Sudan’s country programme, HIV prevention education has been integrated during community engagement (meetings, trainings and awareness-raising sessions), and young women and men are targeted. In the ECHO funded programme, HIV and AIDS education is embedded in the community engagement activities. Mapping of referral services is included in the capacity building trainings of health facility staff.

To strengthen Concern’s gender-transformative work, we expanded our relationship with Sonke Gender Justice to cover all countries over the period 2020-22.

Global inequalities affect us all

Forty years since the first AIDS cases were reported in 1981, HIV still threatens the world. The world is off-track from delivering on commitments to end AIDS by 2030. It is even risking a resurgence, not because of a lack of knowledge or tools, but because of structural inequalities that obstruct proven solutions to HIV prevention and treatment in some countries. The rights of key populations are not always protected.

Economic, social, cultural and legal inequalities must be ended as a matter of urgency if we are to end AIDS by 2030.

This World AIDS Day let’s remind all governments that global inequalities affect us all, no matter who we are or where we live. This World AIDS Day let’s demand action to end inequalities and end AIDS and all other pandemics that thrive on inequalities. 

Delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals

UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals
UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals

The most vulnerable women and girls where Concern is working deserve no less. It is critical to deliver on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 3 and 5 by 2030.

  • SDG 3, Target 3.3: By 2030, end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases and combat hepatitis, water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases
  • SDG 5, Target 5.1: End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere
  • SDG 5, Target 5.2: Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation

**World AIDS Day falls within the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence.

Share your concern
Share