US aims to cut HIV infections in young women in Africa

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration is announcing a $300 million program to drastically reduce HIV infections in girls and young women in 10 sub-Saharan African nations hard hit by the virus.

Administration officials are aiming for a 25 percent infection reduction in females between ages 15-24 by the end of next year and a 40 percent reduction by the end of 2017.

"No greater action is needed right now than empowering adolescent girls and young women to defeat HIV/AIDS," National Security Adviser Susan Rice said.

The new targets mark the next phase for the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, known as PEPFAR. The program, started by President George W. Bush and expanded by President Barack Obama, is credited with saving millions of lives in Africa.

The administration is unveiling the new targets ahead of a U.N. summit on development goals for lifting people around the world out of poverty. Obama is scheduled to address the development meeting on Sunday.

Officials say targeting HIV prevention in young woman is a crucial step toward stopping the spread of the virus. According to the administration, 380,000 adolescent girls and young women are infected with HIV each year - more than 1,000 every day.

The 10 countries that will be targets of the new initiatives accounted for nearly half of all new HIV infections among girls and young women last year. The countries are Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

The money for the prevention programs has already been allocated to PEPFAR but is being repurposed.

The administration is also announcing new treatment targets, including plans to support nearly 13 million people on anti-retroviral treatment by the end of 2017.

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