Facts and figures: HIV and AIDS

Prevalence and New Infections

  • Globally, in 2016 there were an estimated 17.8 million women living with HIV (15 and older), constituting 52 per cent of all adults living with HIV [1].
  • Young women and adolescent girls aged 15-24 are particularly affected. Globally, in 2016 there were an estimated 2.4 million adolescent girls and young women living with HIV, that constitute 61 per cent of all young people living with HIV (15-24) [2].
  • In 2016, of the total estimated 1.7 million new HIV infections among adults (15 and older) globally, 790,000 or 48 per cent were among women [3].
  • 59 per cent of new HIV infections among young persons aged 15-24 in 2016 occurred among adolescent girls and young women [4].
  • There are significant regional differences in both the new HIV infections among women and in the proportion of women living with HIV (15 and older) as opposed to men, and the gaps are even more notable among young women (aged 15-24) versus young men:
    • In sub-Saharan Africa, women comprised 56 per cent of new infections among adults (15 and older); and the proportion was higher among young women aged 15-24, who made up 67 per cent of new infections among young people.
    • In the Caribbean, women represented 45 per cent of newly infected adults; while young women aged 15-24 made up 52 per cent of new infections.
    • In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, women accounted for 42 per cent of new HIV infections; however, among young women aged 15-24, the numbers reached a staggering 57 per cent of new infections.
    • In the Middle East and North Africa, women comprised 38 per cent of newly infected adults; whereas young women aged 15-24 made up 49 per cent of new infections.
    • In Latin America, women represented 28 per cent of those newly infected; while young women aged 15-24 made up 36 per cent of new infections.
    • In Asia-Pacific, women accounted for 31 per cent of new infections; as the numbers reached 39 per cent among young women aged 15-24.
    • In Western and Central Europe and North America, women comprise 23 per cent of new infections; while the numbers were higher for young women aged 15-24, with 31 per cent of new infections. [5]
  • Specific groups of women are disproportionately affected by HIV. An analysis of studies measuring the pooled prevalence of HIV in 50 countries estimated that, globally, female sex workers are approximately 14 times more likely to be infected than other women of reproductive age [6].
  • Based on data reported by 30 countries, the pooled HIV prevalence among women who inject drugs was 13 per cent compared with 9 per cent among men who inject drugs [7].

Factors that fuel HIV

  • Violence against women and girls increases their risk of acquiring HIV. [8] A study in South Africa found that the association of intimate partner violence and HIV was stronger in the presence of controlling behaviour and high HIV prevalence. [9]
  • In some settings up to 45 per cent of adolescent girls report that their first sexual experience was forced. [10]
  • Worldwide more than 700 million women alive today were married before their eighteenth birthday. [11] They often have limited access to prevention information and limited power to protect themselves from HIV infection.
  • Globally, only 3 in every 10 adolescent girls and young women aged 15-24 years have comprehensive and accurate knowledge about HIV. [12] The lack of information on HIV prevention and the power to use this information in sexual relationships, including in the context of marriage, undermines women’s ability to negotiate condom use and engage in safer sex practices.
  • Women living with HIV are more likely to experience violence, [13] including violations of their sexual and reproductive rights. [14] Involuntary and coerced sterilization and forced abortion among women living with HIV has been reported in at least 14 countries worldwide. [15]
  • Women’s access to property and inheritance rights can be critical in preventing HIV. A baseline study conducted in nine countries (Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe) found that stigma associated with HIV-positive status was a significant deterrent to reporting or pursuing property and inheritance rights violations. [16]
  • Legal norms directly affect women’s risk of acquiring HIV. [17] In many countries where women are most at risk, laws to protect them are weak [18]. A lack of legal rights reinforces the subordinate status of women, especially in relation to women’s rights to divorce, to own and inherit property, to enter into contracts, to sue and testify in court, to consent to medical treatment and to open a bank account. [19]
  • Discriminatory criminalization laws linked to HIV can disproportionately affect women, as they are more likely to be tested and know their status through antenatal care. [20] HIV-positive mothers are criminals under all of the HIV laws of West and Central Africa, which explicitly or implicitly forbid them from being pregnant or breastfeeding, lest they transmit the virus to the fetus or child. [21]

The response to HIV

  • At 46 per cent, global coverage of antiretroviral therapy had reached 17 million people at the end of 2015. Gains were greatest in the world’s most-affected region, Eastern and Southern Africa. [22]
  • Globally, 77 per cent of pregnant women have been accessing antiretroviral medicines to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. [23] Still, more than half of the UNAIDS Global Plan’s 21 priority countries are failing to meet the needs for family planning among at least 25 per cent of all married women. [24]
  • Governments increasingly recognize the importance of gender equality in national HIV responses. However, only 57 per cent (of 104 reporting countries) included a specific budget. [25]
  • The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria increased expenditure benefiting women and girls from 42 per cent of its total portfolio in 2013 to approximately 60 per cent in 2015. Much of the increase was in the areas of reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health. [26]
  • In 2015, 39.2 per cent of the Global Fund Country Coordinating Mechanisms members in implementing countries were women, an increase from 33.9 per cent in 2010. [27] These data do not, however, offer an indication of the impact of women’s voices in such mechanisms. [28]


[1] UNAIDS, 2017 estimates from the AIDSinfo online database. Additional disaggregations correspond to unpublished estimates for 2016 provided by UNAIDS, obtained from country-specific models of their AIDS epidemics.

[2] ibid.

[3] ibid.

[4] ibid.

[5] ibid.

[6] Stefan Baral et al. (15 March 2012) “Burden of HIV among female sex workers in low-income and middle-income countries: a systematic review and meta-analysis”, The Lancet Infectious Diseases, vol. 12, No. 7. p. 542.

[7] UNAIDS (2014) The Gap Report, p. 175.

[8] R. Jewkes et al. (2006) “Factors Associated with HIV Sero-Status in Young Rural South African Women: Connections between Intimate Partner Violence and HIV,” International Journal of Epidemiology, 35, p. 1461-1468; R. Jewkes, 2010, "HIV/AIDS. Gender inequities must be addressed in prevention," Science 329(5988), p. 145-147; J. Silverman et al., 2008. “Intimate Partner Violence and HIV Infection among Married Indian Women,” JAMA 300(6), p. 703-710; R. Stephenson, 2007, “Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Domestic Violence: The Sleeping Giants of Indian Health?” Indian Journal of Medical Sciences, 61(5), p. 251-252; K. L. Dunkle et al., 2004. "Gender-Based Violence, Relationship Power, and Risk of HIV Infection in Women Attending Antenatal Clinics in South Africa," Lancet, 363 (9419), p. 1415-1421; and L. Manfrin-Ledet and D. Porche, 2003. “The State of Science: Violence and HIV Infection in Women,” Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care, 14(6), p. 56-68.

[9] UNAIDS (2015) World AIDS Day 2015 report On the Fast-Track to end AIDS by 2030: Focus on Location and Population, p. 76 ; and Durevall D (2015) “Intimate partner violence and HIV in ten sub-Saharan African countries: what do the Demographic and Health Surveys tell us?” Lancet Glob Health 2015 Volume 3, No. 1: p. e41 Published online 21 November 2014.

[10] UNAIDS (2014) The Gap Report p. 135.

[11] UNICEF (2014) Ending child marriage: progress and prospects.

[12] UNAIDS (2015) World AIDS Day 2015 report On the Fast-Track to end AIDS by 2030: Focus on Location and Population, p. 75.

[13] WHO and UNAIDS (2010) Addressing violence against women and HIV/AIDS: What works?, p. 33.

[14] UNAIDS (2012) Together We Will End AIDS, p. 73.

[15] UNAIDS (2014) The Gap Report p. 127.

[16] UN Women (2014) Fact Sheet: Promoting the Legal Empowerment of Women in the Context of HIV/AIDS

[17] “Advancing Human Rights and Access to Justice for Women and Girls”, What works for women and girls.

[18] Stella Mukasa and Anne Gathumbi (2008) HIV, Human Rights and Legal Services in Uganda: A Country Assessment, New York, Open Society Institute; Tamar Ezer, Kate Kerr, Kara Major, Aparna Polavarapu and Tina Tolentino (2006) “Child Marriage and Guardianship in Tanzania: Robbing Girls of their Childhood and Infantilizing Women,” Georgetown Journal of Gender and Law, 7(357), p. 362; and Tama Ezer, Aisha Glasford, Elizabeth Hollander, Lakeisha Poole, Grant Rabenn and Alexandria Tindall (2007) “International Women's Human Rights Clinic Report: Divorce Reform: Rights Protection in the New Swaziland,” Georgetown Journal of Gender and Law, 8(883), p. 889.

[19] “Advancing Human Rights and Access to Justice for Women and Girls”, What works for women and girls.

[20] International Planned Parenthood Federation, ICW Global, GIZ, UNAIDS and the Global Coalition of Women and AIDS (2011) Piecing it Together for Women and Girls: The Gender Dimension of HIV-related Stigma—Evidence from Bangladesh, the Dominican Republic and Ethiopia.

[21] Global Commission on HIV and the Law (2012) Risks, Rights, and Health, p. 23.

[22] UNAIDS (2016) Global AIDS Up-date 2016, p. 1, 3.

[23] UNAIDS (2016) Factsheet 2016, p. 8.

[24] UNAIDS (2014) The Gap Report, p. 42.

[25] UNAIDS (2015) Report on the UNAIDS 2014-2015 results, accountability and budget matrix (UNAIDS/PCB(32)/13.9), p. 52.

[26] See http://www.theglobalfund.org/en/financials and http://www.theglobalfund.org/en/womengirls/

[27] See http://www.theglobalfund.org/en/womengirls/

[28] UN Secretary-General (23 December 2015) Report of the Secretary-General Women, the girl child and HIV and AIDS, p.10.

[Page updated July 2018.]