Achieving gender equality, advancing women’s empowerment and fulfilling the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls are crucial to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals and achieving the targets set in the 2016 United Nations Political Declaration on Ending AIDS.

Four decades of the HIV response has heralded significant success. Yet, much more is needed, particularly in terms of ensuring that women and girls are not left behind. Pervasive gender inequality, patriarchy and discrimination undermine the progress in the HIV response. Young women and adolescent girls face a heightened vulnerability to HIV infection and every week 7000 young women (aged 15–24) acquire HIV.

Gender-based violence is a global epidemic and one in three women worldwide has experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner, or non-partner sexual violence, in her life. Studies have shown that, in some regions, women who experienced physical or sexual intimate partner violence were 1.5 times more likely to acquire HIV.  Among women living with HIV, intimate partner violence can lead to lower antiretroviral therapy use and adherence to HIV treatment, and higher viral loads.  

Access to education, including comprehensive sexuality education, and to sexual and reproductive health services is essential to supporting the autonomy and agency of women and girls. When women are empowered in decision-making, they are more likely to negotiate safer sex, have higher HIV-related knowledge and use condoms. Additionally, the integration of sexual and reproductive health services with other health services improves access to, for example, tuberculosis and cervical cancer screening, prevention and treatment, and mitigates the impact of gender-based violence. 

The UNAIDS Secretariat and Cosponsors, together with a wide range of partners, including women living with HIV and women’s organizations, work towards meeting the needs of girls and women across all targets in the Political Declaration on Ending AIDS. They work towards ensuring that women and girls everywhere have their rights fulfilled and are empowered to protect themselves against HIV and that all women and girls living with HIV have immediate access to treatment and care.

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“Women want love, hope, mental health, protection and to speak out and not be afraid and not have to ask permission. We are starting a revolution”


L'Orangelis Thomas Negron Jovenes Positivos, Puerto Rico