50 million women in Asia at risk of HIV infection: UNAIDS

Tue Aug 11, 2009 7:30am EDT
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By Tan Ee Lyn

BALI, Indonesia (Reuters) - Fifty million women in Asia are at risk of being infected with HIV because of the risky sexual behavior of their husbands or boyfriends, leading health experts said in a report on Tuesday.

More than 90 percent of the 1.7 million women now living with HIV in Asia became infected while being in monogamous, long-term relationships with men who engaged in risky sex behavior, the report launched by UNAIDS said.

These include men who had other sexual partners or who were drug users.

"We need to target men who engage in paid sex, injecting drug users, men who have sex with men, who can transmit the virus to their partners," Jean D'Cunha, regional director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women in South Asia, told a news conference held on the margins of an HIV/AIDS conference in Bali.

"We need to question the attitudes, values and behavior and transform these so that women would be less vulnerable to


While the issue of gender inequality is often ignored or laughed off, experts say it cannot be taken lightly in the context of HIV/AIDS, a disease that can be transmitted through sexual contact and which is incurable.

Sex workers, who have very little bargaining power to begin with, are usually forced to comply when their clients refuse to use condoms. Back home, the wives of these men too have no power to demand that condoms be used even if they know about the risky sexual behavior of their husbands.   Continued...

<p>College students display HIV/AIDS awareness messages on their faces during a face painting competition in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh January 17, 2009.REUTERS/Ajay Verma</p>