Despite progress in many aspects of the global HIV response, women - particularly adolescent girls and young women - continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV. Women constitute more than half of all people living with HIV. AIDS-related illnesses remain the leading cause of death for women aged 30-49 and the third leading cause of death for women aged 15-29.
Gender inequalities, including gender-based and intimate partner violence, exacerbate women and girls’ physiological vulnerability to HIV and block their access to HIV services. HIV is not only driven by gender inequality, but it also entrenches gender inequality, leaving women more vulnerable to its impact.
The gender inequalities in some regions result in an even starker difference between the way HIV affects men and women. For example, in East and Southern Africa, young women (15-24 years) will acquire HIV five to seven years earlier than their male peers. This equates to 4,500 new HIV infections among young women every week in 2015, double the number in young men.
The power imbalance between genders also means that many young women are not able to make decisions about their own lives. For example, more than 80% of married 15 to 19 year-old women in Senegal, Niger, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire and Cameroon do not have the final say on their own healthcare.
These inequalities are more severe for marginalised women, including female sex workers, transgender women, women who inject drugs, migrant women and women with disabilities who are also at a heightened risk of discrimination and violence.
Explore this page to find out more about how gender inequality increases a woman’s vulnerability to HIV, what is being done to tackle gender inequality and read about programmes tackling gender inequality and HIV.