By Yashim Katurak
Abuja – The World Health Organisation (WHO) says women, especially adolescents between 15 and 24 years, represent the majority of people living with HIV globally.
According to a report on ‘Women and Health’ released on its website on Tuesday, the organisation said that globally, adolescent girls and young women account for two out of three new HIV infections.
The report said that an estimated 18 per cent of girls are sexually abused at some point in their childhood as against eight per cent for boys.
It said that adolescent girls experienced a greater risk of sexual abuse and face harmful practices such as child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
The report said that majority of girls who became sexually active during their adolescent years were often coerced or forced to have sex including other forms of Gender-Based Violence (GBV).
The organisation said that each year, about 15 million girls were married before the age of 18 years, adding that globally, one in three women in their lifetime were likely to experience physical or sexual violence.
The organisation attributed the root cause of these inequitable health outcomes for women and girls to gender equality.
“Globally, adolescent girls and young women account for two out of three new HIV infections. In certain cultures, gender-based discrimination disadvantages girls through sex-selective abortion and female infanticide.
“Women and girls in areas of conflict and displacement suffer disproportionately as a result of disruption of health systems, exacerbation of barriers to healthcare, and use of rape and other forms of violence as weapons of war.
“About 16 million girls aged 15 to 19 years and one million girls under 15 years give birth every year with an estimated three million unsafe abortions taking place globally every year among this age group.
“Every day, approximately 830 women die from preventable causes relating to pregnancy and childbirth and in households and communities, women are the primary sources of care giving.
“In 2016, global life expectancy at birth was 74.2 years for females and 69.8 years for males.
“Although the figure shows that women live longer than men, women experience more morbidity and use healthcare services more than men especially linked to reproductive health needs,” the report read in part.
WHO said that women contribute more to health than any other sector and must therefore be recognised and valued for their contribution, saying that this can be done by addressing gender biases and inequalities in the health and social workforce.
The organisation pledged to continue to work assiduously to improve women’s health by strengthening access to and delivery of health services.
According to the report, this includes sexual and reproductive health issues such as maternal care, access to integrated services for HIV and tuberculosis, preventing GBV, cancer, diabetes and other diseases.
The organisation said that it was working with member states to help strengthen the capacity of the health system and of healthcare providers to respond to violence against women and sexual abuse of children and adolescents.
WHO said it would achieve this by implementing the Global plan of action on strengthening the role of the health system to address violence in particular against women, girls and children.