Millions of women and girls living in the world’s poorest countries are living with HIV and AIDs. They face stigma, violence and intolerance because of their social status. 

ActionAid is providing vital information, psychological support and training to women and girls living with HIV and AIDs so they can become participating members of their society.

Find out why HIV affects women, how ActionAid helps, and hear stories from women and girls we've helped. 

HIV statistics

36.7 m
There were approximately 36.7 million people living with HIV at the end of 2016.1

25.6 m
Over 25.6 million people living with HIV in 2016 in Africa.2

2.1 million young people aged between 10 and 19 years were living with HIV in 2016.3

Why are women and girls particularly at risk of HIV?

  • Many young girls and women don't have access to education and do not receive adequate information on the risks of HIV.
  • Poverty increases the vulnerability to HIV, with women in the poorest parts of the world exposed to early marriage, forced into sex in return for food and shelter, or at high risk of trafficking and exploitation.
  • Child marriage, sexual violence and intimate partner violence also increase the risk of HIV infections in women. Domestic violence or fear of violence in intimate partner relationships can prevent women from seeking HIV testing and revealing their HIV status for example. 
  • Women in impoverished regions of the world face barriers to accessing healthcare services, such as requiring the consent of a spouse or partner, discrimination from healthcare providers and poor-quality care. This could lead to women being unable to reduce their risk of HIV. 

How does ActionAid help women and girls with HIV and AIDs?

  • ActionAid provides vital information, including how to prevent HIV infection, how to get tested, how to get treatment and how to prevent mother-to-baby transmission.
  • We provide psychosocial support to help women cope with the stigma of living with HIV, and help change negative attitudes in communities.
  • Through our skills training and group projects, we empower women to earn their own income, helping them afford antiretroviral treatment, and support their children.
  • All of our work to end violence against women and girls – such as helping stop child marriage and ensuring perpetrators are held to account – also helps reduce the risk of women and girls being infected with HIV.

Donate £7 a month to help women with HIV

Empowering women with HIV and AIDs 

40-year-old Cossy and her husband were diagnosed with HIV in Kampala, Uganda. 

When her husband found out, he beat her up regularly and blamed her for their positive diagnosis. After Cossy's husband passed away, she sought treatment for HIV, and reached out to ActionAid for help. 

ActionAid and our partners in Uganda provided Cossy with training in hairdressing and handicrafts, as well as start-up capital to build her own business. With 200,000 Uganda Shillings (£40), Cossy bought the materials she needed to run her shop and hair salon. The salon has now been operating for 16 years. 

Feeling empowered, Cossy joined her local women's network and was eventually elected as the chairperson and facilitator of the group.  She now trains other single women in hairdressing skills and every Saturday she invites women to weave baskets and sells them in her shop. 

If ActionAid had not come, I would have died.”

Support women infected with HIV

Cossy (40) styles her friend's hair in her beauty salon in one of Kampala's poorest neighbourhoods

Esther Mbabazi/ActionAid

Top image: Constance, 32, who is HIV positive is helped by a project supported by ActionAid in Eastern Kenya. Søren Bjerregaard/ActionAid

Page updated 5 October 2022