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UN: Violence Helps Spread of AIDS

March 4, 1999

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ Violence against women is helping to spread the virus that causes AIDS, U.N. officials said Wednesday in events leading up to next week’s commemoration of International Women’s Day.

Marital abuse, sexual coercion, rape and the trafficking of women and children are forms of violence that lead directly to HIV infection, experts told the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women.

``For millions of girls and women worldwide, it is clear that violence, AIDS and human rights abuses are experienced as three strands of the same traumatic reality,″ said Peter Piot, executive director of the joint U.N. program on HIV/AIDS, known as UNAIDS.

Piot also said the subordinate position of women in many societies makes it ``difficult if not impossible″ to protect themselves from HIV.

``They often cannot insist on fidelity, demand condom use, or refuse sex to their partner, even when they suspect or know that he is already infected himself,″ he said. ``And they often lack the economic power to remove themselves from relationships that carry major risks of HIV infection.″

Violence against girls and women throughout the world causes more death and disability among females between the ages of 15 and 44 than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and even war, according to the World Health Organization.

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