A nurse in Malawi displaying materials on how HIV is transmitted

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HIV is a disease of poverty and injustice

More than 95% of people living with HIV are in developing countries. People in poor communities are at increased risk because of the effects of poverty – lack of knowledge and awareness, lack of prevention services, lack of counselling and testing, lack of access to treatment and ARVs (anti-retroviral drugs), high levels of stigma and discrimination.

Hunger and malnutrition can force people into dangerous behaviour, for example women selling their bodies for food. At the same time, poor people living with HIV are often too sick to work and earn an income. They often have neither the resources to pay for medical treatment nor the nutritious diet needed to tolerate the strong medication.

Women are at a higher risk of infection than men because of gender inequality – meaning they have less choice over their sexual and reproductive health – and sexual violence.

Treating more than just the symptoms

We aim to prevent infection by educating girls and boys on sexual and reproductive health. We make sure people have enough to eat and help people living with HIV to earn an income through livelihoods training and support.

We provide access to services such as condoms, voluntary counselling and testing, and prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections. We advocate for policy changes to reduce discrimination and improve health support. And we help commercial sex workers protect themselves from HIV infection – and from violent discrimination by police, clients and others.

Focus on women

Poorer women in most societies, especially those living with HIV, face combined burdens from discriminatory practices and policies in obtaining education and employment, in accessing livelihoods, assets and information, and basic civil participation. CARE is committed to supporting women and girls living with or at risk of HIV to empower themselves to live healthy and fulfilling lives.

We must work together to fight the stigma and ignorance surrounding this disease, but perhaps even more importantly, we should learn to help each other and not turn our back on other women and mothers who need support. – Djama Armadou, Niger

Focus on children

Children affected by HIV – for example, children orphaned by HIV or caring for a parent living with HIV – are already disadvantaged in virtually all aspects of life – nutrition, health and development. These children are less likely to have their basic needs met and are more likely to be sick or malnourished, suffer psychological trauma, lag behind in a series of developmental outcomes, endure abuse and become HIV positive. Young children are especially vulnerable to the effects of HIV, given the critical importance of the first five years of life in providing the foundations for lifelong development. CARE’s programmes targeting child health support children at risk of HIV to live healthier lives, and we support programmes aimed at preventing mother-to-child transmission of the virus.