“Have you heard me today?”

Women and AIDS
OECD Observer

World AIDS Day 2004 kicked off on 1 December with the slogan, “Have you heard me today?”. The slogan was coined by women, who account for about half of the people infected with HIV/AIDS, but who often don’t have a say in protecting themselves against the disease.

Women are more physically susceptible to HIV infection than men. Male-to-female transmission from sexual intercourse is about twice as likely to occur as female-tomale, and women often contract the infection because of the high-risk behaviour of their partner, over whom they practically have no control. According to UNAIDS, millions of women “are forced to have sex” around the world and do not have the choice of remaining abstinent or using contraceptives.

Each day, 8,000 persons die from the disease and 14,000 others are infected. According to UNAIDS, 39.4 million men, women and children worldwide are living with the virus. This figure includes 4.9 million people who contracted HIV in 2004. In addition, the global AIDS epidemic killed 3.1 million people last year.

HIV is spreading almost everywhere – AIDS victims are on the rise in east Asia, eastern Europe, and Latin America. But the epidemic is expanding most rapidly in the Russian Federation, particularly among drug users, and in China, where the number of people living with AIDS is expected to double this year compared with last year. Nearly 70% of all the people living with the virus are in Africa. The number of infected women is on the rise in sub-Saharan Africa, where six out of ten victims of the disease are women or girls. South Africa is still the hardest-hit region, accounting for a third of all AIDS deaths around the world.

Donors are reacting to the alarming spread of HIV/AIDS. A report published by the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) in 2004 shows a clear trend towards rising HIV/AIDSrelated expenditure. DAC countries account for well over 90% of the world’s bilateral official development assistance. Total bilateral commitments for HIV/AIDS increased by 64% in 2000-2002. Eastern and southern Africa were the main recipients.

This is quite a significant figure, with total official development assistance (ODA) commitments for HIV/AIDS control at $2.2 billion per year from 2000 to 2002. The lion’s share was bilateral, at $1.1 billion per year, while allocations to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria came to $0.5 billion per year. The remainder is DAC members’ estimated aid via multilateral core funding through UN organisations and the World Bank. Collaboration is also being fostered, through twinning arrangements with hospitals in OECD countries, for instance, and between NGOs and the communities and families of affected people.


OECD (2004), Aid Activities in Support of HIV/AIDS Control, Creditor Reporting System series on aid activities, volume 2004, ISBN 926401677.

UNAIDS report

©OECD Observer No 246/247, December 2004-January 2005

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