AIDS Is Leading Cause of Women's Deaths Globally, WHO Says

According to WHO's first research on women's health worldwide, the AIDS virus appears to be the leading cause of death and disease among women between the ages of 15 and 44, the World Health Organization said Monday.

Unsafe sex is the leading risk factor in developing countries for these women of childbearing age, with others including lack of access to contraceptives and iron deficiency, the WHO said. Throughout the world, one in five deaths among women in this age group is linked to unsafe sex, according to the U.N. agency.

"Women who do not know how to protect themselves from such infections, or who are unable to do so, face increased risks of death or illness," WHO said in a 91-page report. "So do those who cannot protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy or control their fertility because of lack of access to contraception."

The data were included in a report that attempts to highlight the unequal health treatment a female faces from childbirth through infancy and adolescence into maturity and old age, The Associated Press reports.

It was also reported, despite considerable progress in the past decades, societies continue to fail to meet the health-care needs of women at key moments of their lives, particularly in their adolescent years and in older age, according to a women and health report released by the UN agency.

"If women are denied a chance to develop their full human potential, including their potential to lead healthier and at least somewhat happier lives, is society as a whole really healthy? What does this say about the state of social progress in the 21st century?" said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan when launching the report.

According to the report, women worldwide provide the bulk of health care -- whether in the home, the community or the health system, yet health care continues to fail to address the specific needs and challenges of women throughout their lives.

Up to 80 percent of all health care and 90 percent of care for HIV/AIDS-related illness is provided in the home -- almost always by women. Yet more often than not, they go unsupported, unrecognized and unremunerated in this essential role, Xinhua reports.

News agencies also report, women make up 80% of the workforce when it comes to care, working in nursing homes, in supportive role positions, and nursing staff, but their own needs are not adequately being fulfilled.

“It’s time to pay girls and women back, to make sure that they get the care and support they need to enjoy a fundamental human right at every moment of their lives, that is their right to health,” said WHO Director General Margaret Chan.

“We will not see significant progress as long as women are regarded as second-class citizens in so many parts of the world,” Chan concluded, dBTechno reports.

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