Women in Poor Countries Need Political Empowerment To Fight AIDS, U.N. Special Envoy Says
Women in developing nations, who are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS, must have political empowerment in addition to antiretroviral drugs to fight the epidemic, U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific Nafis Sadik said on Monday at a forum held at the University of California-San Francisco to mark International Women's Day 2004, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 3/10). This year's IWD focused on HIV/AIDS among women and girls. Currently, there are 20 million women living with HIV/AIDS worldwide; 58% of the people living with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa are women, and 30% of the HIV-positive individuals in the Mekong region of Asia are women (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/8). Sadik said that gender inequalities make women more vulnerable to HIV infection, adding that many women do not have the power to address these inequalities, according to the Chronicle. But Sadik said that programs that increase educational and economic opportunities can help overcome these inequalities. Although rich nations should not "tell [poor] countries what to do," they must make sure that they do not "hinder countries from doing what needs to be done," Sadik said. As an example, Sadik cited a Bush administration policy that withholds foreign aid from organizations that perform, advocate or mention abortion. According to Sadik, the policy withholds funding from clinics that are often women's only source of medical care. UCSF epidemiologist Suneeta Krishnan, who studies HIV and gender issues in Bangalore, India, said at the gathering that increasing the average age of marriage and offering "micro-credit" loans for small businesses would help to empower women in India (San Francisco Chronicle, 3/10).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.