Women and young girls are the hardest hit by HIV. It is twice as common for girls and young women (15– 24 years old) to contract HIV as boys and men in the same age group. This was one of the issues raised recently during a panel discussion in Stockholm on women’s sexual and reproductive rights.

Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, participated in the discussion, which was organised by the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. “Strengthening girls’ and women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) is a must if we are to succeed in combating HIV,” said Mr Sidibé.

– Today our challenge is about how to reach adolescent girls and to make sure that they are not deprived of their right to have education and health services, such as testing and treatment. If we don’t manage that we will not be able to control the epidemic, he added.

Ulrika Modéer, State Secretary for Development Cooperation at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, talked about Sweden’s involvement and contributions in the area of SRHR. A great deal is being done to strengthen girls’ and young women’s rights within the framework of the global ‘She Decides’ campaign.

– It has been proven that talking about the rights of adolescents and women is not only the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do. To actually include people in development and sustainable economic development, to combat poverty in the end, said Ms Modéer.

Read more (in Swedish) about Sweden’s contributions in the area of SRHR and the ‘She Decides’ campaign