(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

New HIV/AIDS project targets vulnerable women and girls

[CAR] Women sewing
UN

Poor and illiterate women and girls in Togo will soon be helped to learn how to avoid HIV/AIDS infection and care for those infected in a joint project between the UN and the Togo government.

According to a UN Development Programme (UNDP) statement, the infection rate among boys aged 15 to 19 is eight percent, while the rate for girls is 30 percent. The rate of infection among adults in Togo more than tripled between 1997 and 2001, rising from two percent to seven percent, the statement said.

Studies have found that more than 90 percent of Togolese know how HIV/AIDS is transmitted and how to prevent infection, but poverty and illiteracy are obstacles to effective prevention.

Welcoming the project, Akouavi Assagbavi, representing an organisation of women market porters in Lomé, said: "No one is concerned about our well-being, and we are exploited because many of us are illiterate."

The project will help her organisation's members advance their own interests and open access to loans and better jobs, she said. It would also help those infected with HIV/AIDS, who face poverty and neglect, regain self-esteem.

In addition to poverty and illiteracy, other risk factors for women and girls in the country include low social and economic status, migration from rural areas and prostitution, the statement noted.

According to UNDP, the project will increase awareness of risky behaviour and help vulnerable groups find alternatives by mobilising civil society to help improve social, political and cultural attitudes.

UNDP is allocating US $100,000 for the project, being implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Social Affairs, Promotion of Women and Child Protection.

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