EU stresses young women, prevention in AIDS fight

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EUAt a seminar marking World AIDS Day in Helsinki, the Finnish EU presidency urged an improvement in the status of young women and prevention in tackling the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

"Young women have a manifold risk of contracting HIV compared to men of the same age. The virus spreads mainly though heterosexual transmission," according to Finnish Foreign Trade and Development Minister Paula Lehtomaeki, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency.

"The epidemic can be curbed only by assuring girl's and women's access to sexual and reproductive health and rights without pressure, compulsion or violence," Lehtomaeki told the seminar.

"This can also reduce the orphaning of children," she added.

Speaking on behalf of the EU Lehtomaeki called on the international community to "work to prevent contraction of the virus."

Reluctance in some countries to help groups such as sex workers, injection drug users, prison populations and homosexual men was "disturbing, because in many countries, injection drug users and paid sex services are the main reasons for the spread of the epidemic," Lehtomaeki said.

The disease has claimed more than 25 million lives in 25 years and a cure and vaccine remain elusive. According to UNAIDS, some 39.5 million people are now living with HIV/AIDS.

source - AFP