Speaking Monday at a UNAIDS conference on halting the HIV epidemic among women and girls, Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe said poverty presents the biggest challenge to anti-AIDS efforts in Zimbabwe. "Poverty undermines the ability of young girls and women to protect themselves from the epidemic, as most adopt coping strategies that expose them to the risk of HIV/AIDS," she said. "Gender inequality and unequal power relations between women and men continue to influence the spread of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. And a number of socioeconomic and religious related gender issues also predispose women and girls to HIV infections." Khupe said she intends to seek additional funds to bolster Zimbabwe's own inadequate AIDS-fighting resources. Organizers said the conference seeks to create a new and sustainable network of female African lawmakers and ministers to fight HIV and develop plans to implement UNAIDS' agenda for accelerated progress at the county and regional levels.