Press release

Featherstone: Young women being ‘left behind’ in efforts to tackle HIV

Despite the progress made in preventing HIV across the globe, rates of infection in Southern Africa are still unacceptably high, with adolescent girls worst affected, Lynne Featherstone has announced.

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The International Development Minister is visiting Malawi this week as part of a major review into Britain’s HIV strategy, which will contribute to preventing half a million new HIV infections among women by 2015.

As part of her wider visit to Southern Africa, Lynne Featherstone launched a new £10.7 million regional research programme to generate evidence in the region on how to make HIV prevention methods more effective, especially for adolescents and prisoners.

International Development Minister Lynne Featherstone said:

Across the world, we have made huge strides in tackling HIV over the past decade. Yet new infection rates remain too high, particularly amongst adolescent girls. It is a sad fact that this vulnerable group is being left behind.

I want to see zero new infections, zero deaths from HIV/AIDS and zero discrimination. This won’t happen unless we prioritise marginalised groups. This means addressing stigma, empowering women and girls and reducing the violence against them that makes them so vulnerable to the epidemic.

The Southern Africa region accounts for the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world and remains the global epicentre of the epidemic. The region is home to 11.3 million people living with HIV/AIDS, an increase of nearly one-third over the past decade. However, evidence on the effectiveness of various HIV prevention methods is still insufficient and the contribution of vulnerable groups to the epidemic is widely ignored.

The new UK-funded Southern African Regional Programme on HIV Prevention Evidence aims to mount a more effective and efficient prevention effort in the region through a regional fund for operations and innovation research among vulnerable groups.

The 4 year programme, which will be hosted by UNAIDS, will help to improve the skills of policy makers to analyse and utilise data and address the drivers of HIV transmission in vulnerable groups.

While in Malawi, Lynne Featherstone visited a health centre which is preventing the transmission of HIV from mothers to children as well a support centre for victims of violence against women – a major contributing factor to HIV infection.

Malawi has some of the highest rates of HIV infection in the world. One in 10 adults has the disease and 450,000 of Malawi’s million orphans have lost one or both parents to HIV. In March, Justine Greening announced £21 million of support to help 164,000 couples undertake joint counselling and testing for HIV as well as the distribution of 23 million condoms.

Notes to editors

  • To contribute to the Department for International Development’s review of the HIV position paper, go to
  • The new UK HIV regional research programme, worth £10.7 million from 2013 until 2016/17, will generate evidence for HIV prevention among a target group of an estimated 33.6 million adolescents, of which 16.5 million are women, and approximately 250,000 prisoners
  • The UK is the world’s second biggest donor to HIV programmes, having contributed £1 billion over the last 3 years
  • For more information on March’s announcement of UK support for Malawi, go to
  • Adolescent is defined as between the ages of 9 and 24.
Published 12 July 2013