Nafis Sadik, U.N. special envoy for HIV/AIDS in the Asia-Pacific region, told a poverty alleviation conference in Beijing that a lack of respect for women is fueling the spread of the virus, Reuters reports.

“Gender-based violence and discrimination on grounds of gender drive the HIV and AIDS epidemic among women,” Sadik said on October 17. “Empowerment of women—equipping them with self-esteem, the knowledge, the ability to protect themselves—will be of critical importance in winning the battle.

“Women suffer doubly,” she continued. “First, from HIV and AIDS itself, and secondly from the stigma associated with the disease. Women are routinely blamed for infecting their husbands, though it is almost always the men who infect their wives.”

According to the article, roughly one third of all people living with HIV in China are women compared with one in 10 in 1995.