UNICEF adviser said most countries protect baby, and not mom for her own sake.
WASHINGTON - Tackling the female side of the AIDS epidemic means going far beyond today's focus on pregnant women, specialists told the world's largest AIDS meeting Wednesday.
Already women make up half the world's HIV infections. Adolescent girls are at particular risk in the hardest-hit parts of the world, and protecting them requires addressing the poverty, violence and discrimination that too many women experience, said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Geeta Rao Gupta. "These adolescent girls and young women, our sisters and daughters, represent an unfinished agenda in the AIDS response," she said.
Topping the world's anti- AIDS goals for women is the effort to nearly eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The number of babies born with HIV has been dropping for several years as more women receive AIDS drugs during pregnancy and while they're nursing -- 57 percent of them last year, the United Nations said.
But UNICEF HIV adviser Dr. Chewe Luo said that drop isn't happening fast enough to meet the 2015 target date, and a key reason is that many countries focus just on protecting the baby and not on treating the mother for her own good.
Few countries automatically continue providing the life-saving drugs for mom after her baby is weaned, Luo said.
About 4.8 million people ages 15 to 24 are living with HIV, and two-thirds of them are girls or young women, Rao Gupta said. Sexual violence and conditions of poverty that frequently lead to girls marrying in their teens for economic security are chief risks in developing countries, she said.