News Video | Policy | GPs | Hospitals | Medical | Mental Health | Welfare | Search


Women at the frontline in the AIDS response

Women at the frontline in the AIDS response

Toronto, 14 August- Young women aged 15 to 24 are more than twice as likely to become infected with HIV as men said Melinda Gates, co-chair of the “Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation”, at the International AIDS Conference in Toronto.

Speaking at a session entitled “Women at the frontline in the AIDS response,” Gates said that women are not only increasingly the face of HIV, they are also the caregivers and hence bear the brunt of the HIV burden. Yet in many societies, women have few rights and are caught in a social and cultural net of gender inequality that serves to drive the spread of HIV.

Panelists discussed the tragedy of rural women in India, who for the most part have only one sexual partner in their life – their husband. But when they become infected with HIV, the blame falls on them and they are either beaten or thrown out of the house.

For South African jazz artist and HIV activist, Musa “Queen” Njoko, women are the backbone of every society. They need to be empowered and must refuse to be victims. “Decisions need to be made by women and we need to put in place programmes to help develop women’s skills and enable them to become independent.”

Njoko added that she did not just mean micro-economic programmes, but programmes that would fulfill women’s interests and help build a future for them.

Similarly, Gates argued that addressing women’s empowerment and lifting them out of sex work, for instance, required dealing with a range of issues, such as supplying clean water so they would not have to walk long distances to fetch water every day.

Sex workers also needed safe places where they could come together and find out how to stay healthy, where to get condoms and where to get tested for HIV.

“Sex workers are part of society …” said Gates. “These are women who are working to provide a better future for their children, like any other women.” Gates stressed that enlisting sex workers in the fight against AIDS would help them protect themselves from infection and keep them from passing the virus along to others.

In another session on the second day of the conference, about 300 people met to discuss the topic, “Sex workers, HIV and human rights: What can be done?” From Mali, Angelica D. spoke of the regular police raids endured by sex workers and the ensuing violence and extortion for money or sex, all in the midst of regular condom supply shortages. An NGO working with these sex workers had negotiated a scheme with police in Mali’s capital Bamako that meant that sex workers carrying a card confirming their membership to that NGO would not be arrested.


In the Pacific Island countries and territories, a total of about 5,500 women are reported to be living with HIV or died of an AIDS related illness (2004 SPC estimates). However, the reported cases do not reflect the total disease burden as case numbers are influenced by access to testing, testing uptakes and notification rates.

The high levels of sexual and domestic abuse in the region as well as social norms that often do not empower women to make informed decisions or give them the tools to protect themselves from HIV & other STI transmission mean those women are very vulnerable to HIV. Furthermore, women who reveal their positive status risk more discrimination as they are often abandoned by their family or disinherited by their in-laws if their husband dies of an AIDS related complication.




© Scoop Media

Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines

Legendary Bassist David Friesen Plays Wellington’s Newest Jazz Venue

Friesen is touring New Zealand to promote his latest album Another Time, Another Place, recorded live at Auckland's Creative Jazz Club in 2015. More>>

Howard Davis Review: The Father - Descending Into The Depths of Dementia

Florian Zeller's dazzling drama The Father explores the effects of a deeply unsettling illness that affects 62,000 Kiwis, a number expected to grow to 102,000 by 2030. More>>

Howard Davis Review: Blade Runner Redivivus

When Ridley Scott's innovative, neo-noir, sci-fi flick Blade Runner was originally released in 1982, at a cost of over $45 million, it was a commercial bomb. More>>

14-21 October: New Zealand Improv Festival In Wellington

Imagined curses, Shibuya’s traffic, the apocalypse, and motherhood have little in common, but all these and more serve as inspiration for the eclectic improvised offerings coming to BATS Theatre this October for the annual New Zealand Improv Festival. More>>


Bird Of The Year Off To A Flying Start

The competition asks New Zealanders to vote for their favourite bird in the hopes of raising awareness of the threats they face. More>>

Scoop Review Of Books:
Jenny Abrahamson's John & Charles Enys: Castle Hill Runholders, 1864-1891

This volume will be of interest to a range of readers interested in the South Island high country, New Zealand’s natural environment, and the history of science. More>>