U.N. Officials Call on Countries To Strengthen HIV/AIDS Prevention Efforts Among Women
Global HIV prevention programs that urge women to take a leading role must be increased to effectively combat the spread of the virus, U.N. officials said Thursday at the first International Women's Summit on Women's Leadership and HIV and AIDS in Nairobi, Kenya, Xinhua News Agency reports (Xinhua News Agency, 7/5).
The conference, organized by the World YWCA, is being attended by more than 1,500 AIDS advocates, celebrities, community health workers, global leaders and policymakers. The summit aims to address the impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls and will examine issues such as violence against women, poverty and children's rights, and access to resources. The summit is co-convened by the International Community of Women Living With HIV/AIDS and has support from UNAIDS' Global Coalition on Women and AIDS and the United Nations Population Fund (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/7).
Speaking at the conference, UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said that HIV prevention efforts are not keeping pace with the gains being made in treating HIV-positive people. "We have made tremendous progress in recent years, but it is vital that leaders, and especially women, continue to prioritize AIDS -- not just now but over the long term," Piot said (Xinhua News Agency, 7/5). Piot called on donors and governments to increase investment in female-initiated HIV prevention programs, including access to female condoms and microbicide development. "We need to do better in terms of action that is relevant for women," Piot said (Wafula, Nation/AllAfrica.com, 7/6). He added, "As an optimist, I am a firm believer that catastrophes also offer opportunities. So let's turn the paradigm upside down and make sure that the response to AIDS leverages a fatal blow to the disempowerment of women" (AFP/Yahoo! News, 7/5).
Chan, Kenyan President Comments
In order to achieve universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support, "[w]omen must be in the driver's seat," World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan said at the conference. Chan said that gender inequality, intimate partner violence and poverty are among the factors fueling the HIV/AIDS pandemic (Xinhua/China Daily, 7/6). "We must ... seize every opportunity for women to learn their infection status," Chan said, adding, "Women can turn the tide on this epidemic. Women are best placed to make existing tools work" (AFP/Yahoo! News, 7/5).
Recent data shows that women comprise up to 48% of all HIV cases. In sub-Saharan Africa, 60% of all adults living with HIV/AIDS are women and among youths in the region, three out of four living with the disease are female, Xinhua News Agency reports. "These facts testify to the challenging reality that must be addressed," Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki said at the conference, adding, "They also remind us that much more work needs to be done in empowering women and girls to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS." Kibaki called on governments to address the challenges that downgrade women to a subordinate status and hinder their ability to fight HIV/AIDS (Xinhua News Agency, 7/5).
Kaisernetwork.org webcasts of the conference soon will be available online.