When the world first learned of HIV/AIDS, many mistakenly believed the illness only affected gay men. As HIV/AIDS spread in the early 1980s, eventually rising to the level of an epidemic, men accounted for most of the cases reported.
But today, women make up more than half of the people living with HIV around the world.
In the past 35 years, nearly 78 million people have been infected with HIV, according to UNAIDS. Though global rates of new infections are on the decline, women and girls continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS.
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Approximately 1,000 adolescent girls and young women contract HIV every day. In sub-Saharan Africa, where the incidence of HIV/AIDS is highest, women and girls account for almost 75% of all new infections.
Discriminatory laws and cultural attitudes that restrict women and girls’ opportunities make them especially vulnerable to HIV infection. Around the world, women and girls face persistent gender inequality and, often, violence that can make it more difficult for them to access health services and treatment.
When women and girls are forced to be economically or socially dependent on men, they are made particularly vulnerable to being infected with HIV, which is passed through the exchange of certain bodily fluids, including blood and fluids exchanged through sexual contact. HIV cannot be passed through kissing, sweat, sneezes, or by sharing food.
Without education and economic opportunities, women and girls may not be in a position to insist on the use of condoms, which can help prevent HIV transmission, or to refuse sex, according to UNICEF.
But changing gender discriminatory beliefs and legislation can help to empower women and girls everywhere and prevent new HIV infections on a massive scale.
Today, a diagnosis is no longer a death sentence.
With effective treatment, people living with HIV can lead healthy lives and lower their risk of transmitting the virus to others. In fact, when viral levels are lowered to an undetectable level through treatment, HIV cannot be transmitted.
But in order to conclusively end the HIV epidemic, continued investment in women, girls, and an effective preventative vaccine are needed.
Read More: 5 Reasons Why We Need to Keep Funding the Fight Against HIV/AIDS
That’s why Johnson & Johnson invests in cutting-edge science and other solutions to support women and girls and work toward an AIDS-free world.
To make HIV history, Johnson & Johnson is helping to reduce the drivers of girls’ HIV risk in 10 sub-Saharan African countries through the DREAMS partnership and Menstar Coalition.
By tackling the some of the key contributors to girls’ HIV risk, including a lack of empowerment, employment opportunities, access to education, and knowledge of HIV-status among men infected with HIV, Johnson & Johnson is working to prevent the spread of HIV, starting with some of the most vulnerable and underserved groups.
As a world leader and partner in the global effort to make HIV history, Johnson & Johnson is committed to supporting those affected by HIV, preventing and treating infection, and searching for a cure. Find out more about how Johnson & Johnson seeks to change the trajectory of health for humanity at jnj.com/HIV.