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(April 2011) Approximately 68 percent of people infected with HIV worldwide live in sub-Saharan Africa, where the virus disproportionately affects women.
In the last decade, women have become the face of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, as 61 percent of people living with the virus in the region are female.Country statistics compiled by the United Nations show that younger women in Africa are more likely to experience physical or sexual violence than older women, generally from an intimate partner.Although exposure to violence for women varies by country and region, surveys consistently show that it peaks between ages 20 and 30, and then starts to decline.HIV prevalence also tends to reach a peak around age 25 among women.On the other hand, peak HIV prevalence among men occurs about five to 10 years later and at lower overall levels.The highest rates of HIV/AIDS infections among 15-to-49-year-old women occur in southern Africa, particularly in Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, and South Africa.
Figure 1 shows the differences in HIV prevalence rates between men and women in these countries, with women consistently infected in higher proportions than men.
The gender gap is even more substantial among the younger age groups: In South Africa, the prevalence of HIV among young women ages 20 to 24 is approximately three times higher—21 percent compared with 7 percent—than among men of the same age.
In Lesotho, around 8 percent of young women ages 15 to 19 are infected with HIV, while the prevalence rate is 3 percent among men in the same age group.
Violence increases the risk of HIV infection in women as a result of physiological and psychological reasons.
Uninfected women are about twice as likely to contract HIV from infected men as vice versa.
Biologically, women are more vulnerable to infection and forced sex further increases the risk of HIV transmission to women due to tears and lacerations, especially in adolescent girls.