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HEALTH REPORT- World AIDS Day 2004 Focuses on Risk to Women and Girls

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I'm Gwen Outen with the VOA Special English Health Report.

December first is World AIDS Day. This year, the campaign centers on women and girls. They now make up almost half of all people infected with the virus that causes AIDS. And H.I.V. is spreading faster among women than men in most areas of the world. These findings are from the yearly report by the United Nations and the World Health Organization, a U.N. agency.

The report says East Asia had the sharpest increase in the number of women infected with H.I.V during the past two years. Eastern Europe and Central Asia came next.

In Southern Africa, almost sixty percent of infected adults are women. In the Caribbean, young women are two times as likely as men their age to become infected. And, in the United States, seventy-two percent of women infected with H.I.V are African American.

AIDS experts say there are several reasons why women are at greater risk. One has to do with the body. It is physically easier for women, and especially girls, to become infected during sex. Other reasons are cultural. Many women cannot demand that their partners use protection. And marriage is no protection if the husband has been with someone with H.I.V.

These reasons often combine with sexual violence, poverty and a lack of education for females.

Worldwide, an estimated thirty-nine million people are living with H.I.V. That is up from almost thirty-seven million two years ago. An estimated three million people died of AIDS-related causes this year, and five million more became infected. These numbers are the highest yet.

Southern Africa has more than sixty percent of all people with H.I.V. The area with the next highest rate is the Caribbean.

In East Asia, H.I.V. infections increased fifty percent over the last two years. The report says this was largely the result of new cases in China, Indonesia and Vietnam. It noted progress in countries with large prevention programs, like Cambodia and Thailand. But the report says the two most populous countries, China and India, need to do more.

Doctor Peter Piot leads the U.N. AIDS Program. Doctor Piot says prevention efforts alone are not enough to slow the spread of AIDS among women in developing countries. He says women not only need to be protected from violence, but also provided with education, jobs and the right to own property.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Cynthia Kirk. This is Gwen Outen.

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