Celebrities joined health experts and equal rights campaigners on Monday to launch the Global Coalition on Women and AIDS, which will focus on improving prevention and treatment for young women and girls with HIV/AIDS. Half of the estimated 40 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS are women. In Africa the number of young females infected with HIV is twice that of young males. The coalition also aims to address violence against females as well as legal and social inequalities that make women more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. "We have to make it an issue," said Peter Piot, director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS. "We want to tell these women that all these injustices and discrimination have become more lethal because of AIDS."
The coalition hopes to initiate changes at all levels that will reduce women's vulnerability to HIV/AIDS and increase their ability to deal with HIV/AIDS and its consequences. Piot said the need for a coalition on women and AIDS became clear a year or more ago because prevention methods recommending abstinence, being faithful, and using a condom were totally irrelevant for women who have been infected by their husbands. "Marriage is no protection against AIDS," said Piot.