UN Women: Covid-19 exacerbated female HIV infection

Friday December 31 2021
UN Women

Blandine Mekpo, a midwife at a maternity ward, provides information about HIV to pregnant women in Bohicon in southern Benin. The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated HIV among women across the globe. PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP


The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated HIV among women across the globe.

A UN Women statement indicates that in 2020, women aged 15 and older accounted for more than 50 per cent of all new HIV infections globally, for the first time.

Data from UNAids, the UN body says, shows women made up 65 per cent of new infections in Sub-Saharan Africa and 52 per cent in the Caribbean.

In 2020, roughly 5,000 adolescent girls and young women aged 15 to 24 were facing new HIV infections every week, with adolescent girls living with HIV now outnumbering adolescent boys.

The number of new HIV infections, the UN Women notes, is also rising among women in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, in the Middle East and North Africa.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the economic and social inequalities that drive such trends. Poverty and food insecurity, gender-based violence, stigma and discrimination, and child and forced marriage, all raise the risk of HIV infection for women and girls and limit their access to services,” UN Women says.



Unavailability or reductions in routine HIV, sexual and reproductive health and social support services during this period, have left women and girls vulnerable, particularly during periods of lockdown and isolation.

To reverse these trends and build stronger health systems that can withstand repeated and varied pandemics, the UN body is rooting for the passing of non-discriminatory laws and policies and ensuring adequate financing for gender equality.

“We are also advocating for the deployment of targeted, age-appropriate approaches that support women and girls, in all their diversity, with stigma-free services, along with enabling environments for women and girls to realise their rights and engage in decision-making processes at all levels of the HIV response,” their statement says.

In 2016, data released by UN body showed there were an estimated 17.8 million women living with HIV (15 years and older), constituting 52 per cent of all adults living with HIV in the world.

Young women and adolescent girls aged15-24 were particularly affected, with an estimated 2.4 million adolescent girls and young women living with HIV that constituted 61 per cent of all young people living with HIV.

Among the total estimated 1.7 million new HIV infections among adults (15 and older) globally, 790,000 or 48 per cent were among women.

An estimated 59 per cent of new HIV infections among young persons aged 15 to 24 in 2016, occurred among adolescent girls and young women.

In Asia-Pacific, women accounted for 31 per cent of new infections as the numbers reached 39 per cent among young women aged 15 to 24.

In Western and Central Europe and North America, women comprised 23 per cent of new infections; while the numbers were higher for young women aged 15 to 24 with 31 per cent of new infections.