Sri Lanka Hosts Summit on Denial of Inheritance, Property Rights to HIV-Positive Women
The first regional summit on HIV-positive women being denied inheritance and property rights was held on Saturday in Colombo, Sri Lanka, as part of the 8th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, Caitlin Wiesen-Antin, United Nations Development Programme regional HIV/AIDS coordinator in Asia and the Pacific, said Thursday, Xinhua/People's Daily reports. The summit aims to increase public awareness about challenges faced by HIV-positive women, Wiesen-Antin said.
According to Wiesen-Antin, 20 HIV-positive women will testify about their experiences in being denied inheritance or the right to hold property because of their HIV-positive status at the Asia Pacific Court of Women on HIV, Inheritance and Property Rights. In addition, about 30 experts from several Asian countries -- including Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam -- will offer testimony. "When women are denied their rights to inheritance and property, they are robbed of the social and economic empowerment needed to prevent HIV infection and cope with its impact on families and communities," Wiesen-Antin said. She added, "With little or no control over their sexual lives and burdened by abuse, exploitation and violence, women in the region are extremely vulnerable to HIV." About 30% of new HIV cases in Asia occur among women, Wiesen-Antin said (Xinhua/People's Daily, 8/17).
There were about 5,000 HIV-positive people in Sri Lanka at the end of 2005 -- one of the lowest case loads in Asia -- but many Sri Lankans are at risk of contracting HIV because of poverty and displacement, Reuters reports. Wiesen-Antin said the "challenge" in Sri Lanka is to keep the country's HIV prevalence low. About 35,000 people were displaced last year during conflict, the country's military has said, adding that it recently has resettled more than 100,000 people in the eastern part of Sri Lanka. "When people are displaced from their home, their usual system of justice sometimes does not exist," Wiesen-Antin said. She added that "under duress," some displaced people "resort" to commercial sex work, increasing the spread of HIV (Aneez, Reuters, 8/16). ICAAP will be held from Aug. 19 to Aug. 24 (Xinhua/People's Daily, 8/17).