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Experts Study How to Protect Women From HIV

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With 42-million cases of HIV AIDS worldwide, it's easy to get lost in the numbers, and forget that each case is a person. And increasingly, the face of that person belongs to a woman.

"Women are not expected to decide or make decisions about sexuality."

Women and HIV was the focus of the third annual day symposium held by UC San Francisco. It gathered together experts from across the globe to look at why women are at greater risk than men, and to find ways to help protect them.

Nancy Padian, PhD/UCSF Aids Research: "In many cases they are incapable of being able to protect themselves. They are not in control of who they have sex with, under what circumstances. They don't have a political and economic voice, they have less control over their bodies than men do."

The researchers say often the simplest approach is the most effective.

In countries like Zimbabwe, close to one third of all adults are infected. Most men refuse to use condoms, so women need something they can control to protect themselves.

Dr. Helene Gayle/ Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: "So we're looking at developing other strategies like microbicides, products women can use to protect themselves against HIV. And we're looking at other barrier methods that women can control, such as female condoms or diaphragms, other things that women can use that are not as under the control of men as the male condom is."

The experts say we know what works, now what we need is the money, the resources, and the political committment to make sure those most at risk have access to the tools they need to protect themselves.

The lessons learned in Africa could also prove invaluable in helping stop the spread of the epidemic in India and throughout Asia.

Throughout the world 42 million people are living with AIDS. This year alone five million people will be infected.

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