American Women Must Help African Women Gain Economic Equality to Fight HIV/AIDS, World YWCA General Secretary Says
"Through economic empowerment, women and girls will gain control over all aspects of their lives," including the ability to protect themselves against HIV/AIDS, Musimbi Kanyoro, general secretary of the Geneva-based World YWCA, writes in a USA Today opinion piece. Women and girls are now infected with HIV in greater numbers than men and boys, and "the social and economic status of women and girls creates conditions that fuel the spread" of the disease, Kanyoro states. For example, African women and girls are "vulnerable because they lack economic and social power," Kanyoro says, adding that their economic dependence "leaves them unable to extricate themselves from relationships that may expose them to HIV." Because of the "dangerous, deep-rooted myths about AIDS," such as "the belief that sex with a virgin cures HIV/AIDS," there has been an upswing in rapes of baby girls, Kanyoro continues. But "education and leadership can make a difference," she suggests, adding, "Those of us working with African women have begun to see slow but steady change, as, for example, teenage girls learn about their reproductive rights and women get up-to-date information on the spread of sexually transmitted diseases." She notes that the World YWCA's goal is to "improve underlying cultural and social structures, promote mutual respect between men and women and equalize access to education, job opportunities and health care." Kanyoro concludes, "Our goal is to help African women help themselves. To U.S. women, I ask: Shouldn't that be your goal, also? You have achieved so much. Now lend your moral, political and financial support to your African sisters in their long journey toward dignity and equality" (Kanyoro, USA Today, 6/21).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.