World Aids Day is marked on 1 December each year and falls during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence.
HIV disproportionately affects women and adolescent girls because of their unequal cultural, social and economic status in society. [UNAIDS (2017) Ending AIDS: Progress towards the 90-90-90 targets.]
Intimate partner violence, inequitable laws and harmful traditional practices reinforce unequal power dynamics between men and women, with young women particularly disadvantaged. HIV is not only driven by gender inequality, but it also entrenches gender inequality, leaving women more vulnerable to its impact. [WHO (2017) ‘Consolidated guideline on sexual and reproductive health and rights of women living with HIV’]
According to UNAIDS:
- Around 7000 young women aged 15–24 years become infected with HIV every week.
- In sub-Saharan Africa, three in four new infections among adolescents aged 15–19 years are in girls.
- Young women aged 15–24 years are twice as likely to be living with HIV than men.
- More than one third (35%) of women around the world have experienced physical and/or sexual violence at some time in their lives.
The Bugisi clinic in Tanzania, run by our dedicated OLA sisters has been successfully implementing the ‘Test and Treat’ project in Bugisi District, Shinyanga Region for the last eight years. Gilead Sciences is collaborating with the Diocese of Shinyanga, the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles, and Doctors with Africa CUAMM, a Catholic medical mission, to enhance the church’s existing HIV services and strengthen the local healthcare system. The project was launched on 11 February 2014 and the aim was to aggressively test people for HIV and immediately put those who test positive on antiretroviral treatment (ART) regardless of their CD4 levels or clinical stage. The theory behind this is not only that ART reduces the risk of transmitting HIV by lowering the viral load but also that earlier initiation of ART leads to better health outcomes for the patient.
The project has made an enormous impact in the region and continues to grow. The virus is now undetectable in 90% of patients.
Click on the link below to watch a video giving an overview of the project.