HIV/AIDS: Reducing the vulnerability of women
Maputo, Mozambique, 8 September 2001
HIV/AIDS is a global epidemic threatening social and economic security, productivity and development. By the end of 2000, 36.1 million men, women and children around the world were living with HIV/AIDS and 21.8 million had died from the disease.
Of great concern is the impact of HIV/AIDS on women and children everywhere, but particularly in the developing world. It is a devastating problem, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
Women who become infected with HIV/AIDS tend to be diagnosed later than men, have less access to therapy and to have shorter life expectancy. Violence against women is a major contributor to the spread of HIV/AIDS. Therefore gender-based violence within the context of combating HIV/AIDS needs to be addressed. Progress against HIV/AIDS will not be achieved until women gain control of their sexuality. Women must know and feel that society supports them when they say no to unwanted and unprotected sex.
The vulnerability to AIDS of African women is strongly linked to their subordination to the tradition and cultural values which put them at the bottom of the socio-economic pyramid. People with HIV/AIDS still experience discrimination. Combating stigma is a human rights imperative as well as of instrumental value in fighting denial and shame.
Socialist International Women therefore calls on governments to:
- raise public awareness and disseminate information about HIV/AIDS;
- provide speedy, new and effective prevention programmes targeted at women, especially those living in rural areas;
- ensure equal access and medical care to HIV infected women and give particular attention to the treatment of pregnant women and to newborn children of HIV positive mothers;
- disseminate examples of good practice (distributing free condoms, public education, reducing the number of sexual encounters) and successful interventions, translated into local languages to facilitate implementation;
- reduce the price of medicines for antiretroviral therapy through a continuing dialogue with pharmaceutical companies;
- encourage and fund international research and development to produce vaccines for HIV/AIDS.
Finally, Socialist International Women expresses its commitment to work with governments, NGOs and the United Nations, in recognition that only a global programme can be truly effective in combating the HIV/AIDS pandemic.