Getting to zero requires zero gender discrimination and violence

Time to zero in on women and girls


Message of Michelle Bachelet

Executive Director of UN Women

World AIDS Day, 1 December 2011

Today on World AIDS Day, we are called to action to achieve zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. On behalf of UN Women, I would like to stress that getting to zero requires zero discrimination against women and girls. 

According to UNAIDS, new HIV infections in 2010 show a decline of 21 per cent since 1997, nearly 50 per cent of those eligible now have access to treatment, and the number of people dying of AIDS-related causes fell from a peak of 2.1 million in 2004 to an estimated 1.8 million in 2009. This progress is commendable and could not have been achieved without the combined efforts of governments, civil society organizations, the private sector, and the United Nations. Looking ahead, we can achieve even greater progress by aligning the HIV response with broader development strategies that place gender equality at the center.

Today women make up 50 per cent of the 34 million people living with HIV. In two sub-regions, sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean, women comprise the majority of adults living with HIV-- 59 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa and 53 percent in the Caribbean. In Latin America, women comprise 36 per cent of adults living with HIV. In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, more and more women are becoming infected as the epidemic escalates throughout the region.  In the Ukraine, for example, an estimated 45 per cent of the people living with HIV in 2009 were women, up from 37 percent in 1999.

In all regions, stigma, discrimination and violence affect women disproportionately and undermine progress. Women and girls are on the frontline providing care and support for their families and communities, yet they are often at the end of the line receiving the care and support they need for themselves.

Today on World AIDS Day, I encourage all partners in the response to AIDS to zero in on women and girls. Greater progress can be made by empowering women as agents of change, promoting their leadership in the AIDS response, and tackling the stigma, discrimination and violence they face. Today less than half of reporting countries have a specific budget for HIV activities related to women. Getting to zero requires the full participation of women in national AIDS plans, and adequate financing to address the needs and priorities of women.

UN Women is committed to progress in these key areas. By amplifying the voices of HIV positive women, ensuring their leadership and participation in decision-making, and integrating gender equality into national HIV planning and budgeting, we will come closer to zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.