AIDS experts: Focus on pregnant women not enough

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“Orphaning will continue to increase if we don’t actually provide treatment for women,” she said.

New guidelines from the World Health Organization encourage countries to start treatment for life for all pregnant women, regardless of how healthy they may appear between pregnancies. Luo praised Malawi as the first low-income country to adopt that strategy and said Botswana, Rwanda, South Africa and Zambia are considering the same change.

UNICEF’s Rao Gupta called for innovative solutions to help women and girls protect themselves. She pointed to an experiment in Kenya that pays poor families a few dollars a month to help support AIDS orphans and other vulnerable children. Researchers found teens in those households stayed in school longer rather than quitting to work and reported fewer risky sexual behaviors such as multiple partners and unprotected intercourse _ maybe because they weren’t turning to sex for money.

And Serra Sippel of the Center for Health and Gender Equity says too many HIV prevention efforts are missed opportunities for women. Consider: Projects around Africa are pushing male circumcision, which lowers men’s risk of heterosexual infection _ but they don’t educate those men’s wives and girlfriends about the importance of continuing condom use since the protection isn’t perfect, Sippel said.

“Women are the blind spot in the AIDS conversation,” she said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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