Women tell their stories of surviving violence and HIV/AIDS

Geneva - Today, World AIDS Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) is publishing three different stories of women united in the fight against violence and its tragic links to HIV/AIDS. The stories are published in a special web feature on the WHO home page www.who.int.

The latest evidence shows that women and girls are increasingly vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. The last two years have witnessed the sharpest increase of HIV infection among women and girls, who are physically more susceptible to HIV than men. Social norms which perpetuate gender inequalities limit women's ability to negotiate safer sex practices and access HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment services.

Violence against women and girls, including rape, increase the risk of transmission of HIV. Even when they survive the violence, women and girls too often face a life-long battle with the consequences, including HIV/AIDS.

"Have you heard us today?" profiles the voices and images of Balabwa, 22 from South Africa; Phala, 24 from Cambodia; and Francine, 48 from Rwanda. They represent some of the 17.6 million women living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. Balabwa tells how she survived rape and now continues her studies. Phala shares her experience with antiretroviral treatment that brought her the hope to stay alive and see her son grow up.

Francine, like thousands of women exposed to conflict, was gang raped but now is surviving with AIDS treatment. "There was a time when I was counting my days to live. I felt devastated when I think of my children and how they would live after me. But when I began the antiretroviral treatment that could make me stay alive, for the first time in a long period, I started thinking of the future again," she says.

WHO and the partners are working in countries to rapidly scale up HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention services to achieve the global "3 by 5" target - to treat three million people living with HIV/AIDS in developing countries by the end of 2005.

For more information, please contact Tunga Namjilsuren, Media and Web officer, Department of HIV/AIDS, Telephone: +41 (22) 791 1073, Email: namjilsurent@who.int. Women and AIDS: "Have you heard us today?":http://www.who.int/features/2004/aids/en/. For more information on "3 by 5", visit http://www.who.int/3by5

All WHO Press Releases, Fact Sheets and Features as well as other information on this subject can be obtained on Internet on the WHO home page: http://www.who.int/.