U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says women now account for about half of all HIV and AIDS sufferers worldwide.
Speaking Monday at the opening of a U.N. conference marking International Women's Day, Mr. Annan said the rate of infection among women has increased significantly in recent years.
Describing what he called "a terrifying pattern," Mr. Annan said the infection rate among women and young girls rose from 41 to some 50 percent over the last six years. The United Nations says that among those under the age of 24 infected with HIV, nearly two-thirds are female.
Jordan's Queen Noor told the meeting that in the Middle East an estimated 600,000 people are living with AIDS. But she said 55 percent of those are women. The United Nations says in sub-Saharan Africa, 58 percent of people with AIDS are women.
Mr. Annan said the shift in infection rates indicates that widely used prevention measures are failing to keep women safe from HIV/AIDS.
The secretary-general urged governments to fight the problems that put women at risk - including abuse, coercion by older men, and spouses with numerous sexual partners.