Cover Image
close this bookAgenda for Action: Background Materials to the 4rth World Conference on Women (UNAIDS, 1995, 9 p.)
View the documentSummary
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentHow HIV/AIDS is spreading among women
View the documentEconomic subordination leads to HIV vulnerability
View the documentFemale biological vulnerability to HIV
View the documentImpact of HIV/AIDS on women
View the documentResponding to reality: agenda for action
View the documentDr Eka Esu Williams, Nigeria
View the documentReducing the vulnerability of women to HIV/AIDS
View the documentReducing the impact of HIV/AIDS on women
View the documentCaring for women with HIV/AIDS
View the documentConclusion
View the documentAnnex


Global HIV/AIDS situation

Every day, over 6000 people nearly half of them women are newly infected with HIV. Although Africa remains the most heavily infected area, the pandemic continues to spread throughout the world, particularly in Asia. Almost all countries are now reporting a growing number of infections. There is no doubt that the HIV/AIDS pandemic is now truly global, that no country will be spared, and that no country or population is immune.


As of late-1994, WHO estimates that over 11 million adult HIV infections have occurred in Africa. Throughout all of Africa, heterosexual sexual intercourse is the predominant mode of transmission. More than one half of newly infected adults are women, and more than five million women of childbearing age have been infected. Perinatal transmission (mother to child) is also a widespread and increasing problem. As of late-1994, WHO estimates that a total of approximately 900 000 children have been infected with HIV in Africa. As many as one in three pregnant women attending antenatal clinics in some major African urban centres are infected. HIV prevalences of more than 50% are found among some groups of female sex workers, with rates of 1520% among people attending STD clinics.


As of late 1994, almost half of all adults newly infected with HIV in Asia are women. This compares with less than 25% just six years ago. Although the extensive spread of HIV in Asia began only in the mid-1980s or even later, the progression of the pandemic in this region has been particularly rapid. As of late-1994, WHO estimates that over three million HIV infections have occurred in adults. While India and Thailand account for the majority of infections, rapid HIV spread into specific populations has been seen elsewhere in the region. This expansion of the pandemic is largely due to heterosexual transmission.

North Africa and the Middle East

The few studies which are available regarding this region suggest that the extensive spread of HIV began in some parts of the Middle East in the late 1980s. As of late-1994, WHO estimates that over 100 000 cumulative adult HIV infections have occurred in the Middle East and North Africa. HIV prevalence rates as high as 40% have been found among female sex workers in some countries.

Latin America and the Caribbean

Since the mid-1980s, there has been increasing heterosexual transmission, principally among bisexual men and their female sex partners, and among female sex workers and their clients. HIV prevalence rates as high as 15% have been observed in some STD clinic attenders. As of late-1994, WHO estimates that two million cumulative adult HIV infections have occurred in Latin America and the Caribbean, with one-quarter of all infections being among women.

North America and Europe

HIV began to spread extensively in these regions in the late 1970s to early 1980s. The people predominantly affected thus far have been homosexual or bisexual men and injecting drug users, together with their sex partners. However, the transmission of HIV through heterosexual intercourse increased during the latter half of the 1980s and the early 1990s, with especially noticeable increases in urban populations with high rates of injecting drug use or STDs. As of late-1994, over 1.5 million cumulative infections in adults are estimated to have occurred in these regions.


Globally, the major route of HIV transmission to women is overwhelmingly through heterosexual intercourse. Women are increasingly becoming infected with HIV. From being almost absent from the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, women infected with HIV now number between seven and eight million with another one million women becoming infected this year. By the year 2000, over 14 million women will have been infected and four million of them will have died.