Sidibé said "On this day when we honour women, let me speak directly to the men. As husbands and partners, brothers and sons, we must be part of the solution to build a world where women and men are equal."
He added that in an equal world, people of both sexes all have access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support - a society where males and females can protect themselves from HIV equally. A world where all females, regardless of their age, are free to reach their full potential - with no fear of violence from men.
Ending violence against women crucial to ending AIDSThis is not only a basic human rights need. "Ending violence against women is critical to ending AIDS", Sidibé stressed.
According to UNAIDS, up to 7 in every 10 women globally suffer violence from men in their lifetime. It is much harder, and often impossible for women to negotiate for safer sex if they live in an environment of violence or fear of violence.
Women who live with HIV are frequently much more vulnerable to violence, which can be an obstacle to getting the HIV care and treatment they desperately need.
Half of all humans who are infected with HIV are women. A young woman is infected with HIV every minute of the day. Sidibé describes this tragedy as "unacceptable".
Sidibé said "Only when we value a girl's health and welfare as highly as a boy's, only when we listen and act equally to women's voices - then can we have a chance at ending this epidemic.
On this International Women's Day, I am counting on you to stand together as caring communities. Let us reach for shared dignity, mutual respect and a renewed commitment to end violence against women and girls."
Violence against women has a long historyViolence against women has been occurring worldwide for thousands of years. Even in so-called enlightened countries, such as the UK and USA, it was not until relatively recently that wives were not seen as a husband's possession.
In the 1870s, courts in the USA stopped recognizing the common-law principle that a husband had the right to "physically chastise an errant wife".
In 1891, in the United Kingdom, men were no longer allowed to inflict moderate corporal punishment on their wives in order to keep them "within the bounds of duty".
The message that violence against women is a serious obstacle to eradicating the HIV/AIDS pandemic is repeated every year. In 2011, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, also urged for much stronger action to stop violence against women, which seriously hampers anti-HIV efforts.
Dr. Osotimehin said:
"As the former head of the National AIDS Control Agency of Nigeria, the former Minister of Health, and, now, Executive Director of UNFPA, I can say with certainty that we will not be able to stop HIV and improve women's and girls' health until we empower women, advance gender equality and engage men and boys in this effort."
A 2008 study carried out by researchers from Harvard University and India reported in JAMA that women in India who are physically and sexually abused by their husbands have a higher risk of HIV infection, compared to other females.
A map of the world showing countries by level of women's physical security, 2011 (United Nations)
Written by Christian Nordqvist