IWTC Women's GlobalNet #336
Activities and Initiatives of Women Worldwide

GOVERNMENTS FAIL TO MEET HIV/AIDS GOALS FOR WOMEN

July 1, 2008

Joeyta Bose & Maya Scherer

 

1.     FUNDING GAPS & BURDEN OF CARE AMONG CRITICAL ISSUES FOR WOMEN

2.     WOMEN DEMAND ACTION AND ACCOUNTABILITY NOW

3.     WOMEN, INK. RELEASES DIRECTORY OF FREE RESOURCES ON HIV/AIDS & WOMEN

4.     SAVE THE DATE - UPCOMING HIV/AIDS EVENTS IN 2008

5.     WEBSITES OF INTEREST

 

Women’s organizations from around the world held a strong and critical presence at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on HIV/AIDS in New York where 147 governments convened, from June 9 to 11, to report on their progress in accomplishing global, national and regional goals that are to be met by 2010 to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS. These targets and priorities were agreed upon in the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS that was adopted by 189 countries during a previous UNGASS on HIV/AIDS in 2001. The declaration outlines priority areas for international action such as leadership, prevention, treatment, human rights, and resources needed to fund a successful response to the epidemic. It contains 66 goals, 12 of which specifically refer to the intersection between gender inequality and HIV/AIDS, including commitments to decrease women’s vulnerability to HIV infection by eliminating all forms of discrimination against women, including violence against women and girls; creating national strategies to promote women’s human rights; empowering women; and providing gender-based health care and health services.  The declaration also requires UN Member States to submit country reports every two years and those that were presented at this June meeting will be used to inform the 2008 UNAIDS report on the global epidemic that will be launched at the all-important XVII International AIDS Society Conference that will be held in August 2008 in Mexico City.  The next UN High-Level meeting on this topic will be held in 2011.

 

1. FUNDING GAPS & BURDEN OF CARE AMONG CRITICAL ISSUES FOR WOMEN

Women’s organizations highlighted the fact that goals set out for women and HIV/AIDS in the Declaration of Commitment remain partially or completely unfulfilled by many governments and that there has been more rhetoric than action. Further, there are serious gaps in funding that prevent full implementation of these goals for the progress of women. For example, one of the goals stipulates that governments implement national strategies that promote the advancement of women and women’s full enjoyment of all human rights. However, earlier this year the Secretary-General released a stock-taking report on the execution of the Declaration of Commitment, which notes that of the 80% of countries that now have women-focused policies, only 53% provide these programs with budgeted support. (The Secretary General’s full report can be found at: (http://data.unaids.org/pub/report/2008/20080429_sg_progress_report_en.pdf). 

Support to women’s programs and policies are especially important because of the feminization of the epidemic - over 50% of the adults living with HIV today are women.

Over the past two years, the number of women and girls infected with HIV has increased in every region of the world, with rates rising particularly rapidly in Eastern Europe, Asia, and Latin America. In sub-Saharan Africa, women and girls already make up almost 60% of adults living with HIV.  At UNGASS women’s organizations highlighted a number of concerns and themes, including:

(a) Funding

The consistent lack of financing for gender-based HIV/AIDS programs was emphasized, as well as the infrequent inclusion of women, particularly those living with HIV/AIDS, in decision-making and policymaking around the epidemic. Women also emphasized that the current gender-based approach to HIV is too narrow and must be changed to reflect the realities of women’s lives. The World YWCA, UNIFEM, Global Coalition on Women and AIDS, Church World Service and Women Won’t Wait, took on the issue of funding in a side eventand more information about the meeting can be found at: http://www.worldywca.info/index.php/ywca/world_ywca/ywca_news/world_ywca_news __1/un_high_level_aids_meeting_is_over

 

(b) Sexual & Reproductive Health and Rights

A project called the UNGASS AIDS Forum, which brought together delegates from the Global South before the meeting to discuss advancements made on sexual and reproductive health and rights and HIV/AIDS, came to UNGASS with a strong and unified position on the inclusion of sexual and reproductive health and rights into HIV policy and advocacy. Participants in this project included women’s groups from Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean. On Friday June 6, representatives of participating groups came together for a pre-UNGASS meeting to share findings on the status of UNGASS goals on sexual and reproductive health in the Global South. The demand for the inclusion of sexual and reproductive health and rights into the HIV/AIDS response was reflected in the discourse of civil society throughout the official meeting.

For more information on the UNGASS AIDS Forum, please visit:

http://ungassforum.wordpress.com/

 

- Burden of Treatment and Care

Other issues pushed by women’s groups at UNGASS included the need for HIV/AIDS advocacy and programs that place more emphasis on women’s autonomy and providing the tools necessary for women to be active participants in reversing the epidemic. They also asserted that governments must recognize that the burden of treatment and care for infected people disproportionately falls to women and adequate support must be given to women taking on this responsibility.

 

2. WOMEN DEMAND ACTION AND ACCOUNTABILITY NOW  

A document entitled “Women Demand Action and Accountability Now!” was drawn up at the conference and presented to participating governments to strengthen women’s groups’ demands. It pushed for governments to ensure access to treatment, prevention, care and support services for women and girls; gender-driven budgeting; improved monitoring and evaluation of action on women and HIV/AIDS; strengthening of the evidence base on the intersection between gender inequality and HIV/AIDS; and greater focus on frequently invisible groups of women. It called for an articulate and clear policy framework giving priority to violence against women and girls, HIV/AIDS and their inter-linkages; promotion and protection of the human rights of sex workers and drug users; ensuring the rights of human rights defenders; ensuring the freedom of movement of people living with HIV/AIDS; guaranteeing sexual and reproductive health and rights; women’s empowerment; and the greater involvement of women living with HIV/AIDS.

The document was signed by sixty organizations and can be found at: http://www.ua2010.org/en/UNGASS/Press-Centre/Women-Demand-Action-and-Accountability-Now

 

3. WOMEN, INK. RELEASES DIRECTORY OF FREE RESOURCES ON HIV/AIDS & WOMEN

Women, Ink., a program of the International Women’s Tribune Centre dedicated to distributing resources that raise awareness on women, gender and development, compiled a list of free and downloadable resources on HIV/AIDS & women on the occasion of UNGASS. Comprising some 50 action-oriented tools as well as analyses, reports and case studies, this resource pack was assembled to support informed participation and action on issues of women and HIV/AIDS. It provides background and training tools on the complexity of women’s vulnerability to HIV infection, including the need for a gender-based approach to HIV/AIDS; protecting the rights of young women and girls; promoting a gender-based approach to prevention and care; guaranteeing sexual and reproductive health rights; supporting empowerment and leadership for women living with HIV/AIDS; eliminating violence against women; and ensuring women’s economic rights.

To browse the resource list or download a PDF copy, go to: http://www.womenink.org/hiv_for_web.pdf

 

4. SAVE THE DATE - UPCOMING HIV/AIDS EVENTS IN 2008

The discussions at UNGASS provide a good prelude to the upcoming XVII International AIDS Society Conference in Mexico City, Mexico (www.aids2008) to take place in August this year. Connections and joint advocacy established at UNGASS will strengthen the presence of women’s groups in Mexico. In addition, a Women’s Networking Zone will convene during the international meeting to set out goals for women at the conference.

For more information on the Women’s Networking Zone at the XVII International AIDS Conference, email wnzaids2008@gmail.com

 

A number of other regional conferences will provide additional opportunities to address women’s issues within the context of HIV/AIDS. These include the 3rd National Conference on Peer Education, HIV and AIDS, June 18-20 (http://www.icw.org/node/315); Pan Pacific HIV+ Peoples Gathering, Semptember 2-5 (http://www.icw.org/node/340); and the 15th International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa, ICASA,  December 3-7 (http://www.icasadakar2008.org/english/).

 

WEBSITES OF INTEREST

For more information, news, resources and events on women and HIV/AIDS, you can visit the following websites:

1. UNIFEM gender and AIDS portal - www.genderandaids.org

2. World YWCA – www.worldywca.org

3. International Women’s Health Coalition – www.iwhc.org

4. Women Won’t Wait – www.womenwontwait.org

5. UNGASS Forum – www.ungassforum.wordpress.com

6. Global Youth Coalition – www.youthaidscoalition.org

 

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