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International Women's Day And HIV/AIDS

International Women's Day And HIV/AIDS

By Kamala Sarup

International Women's Day is the ideal time to challenge current HIV prevention thinking. For the first time women comprise 50 percent of the global epidemic. The face of AIDS - especially in Asia - is more and more the face of women. Women with HIV who are unable to afford private insurance have a difficult time finding dependable care, and this inequity is worsened by economic barriers of race and sex.

We cannot let another International Women's Day come and go without understanding that women's economic and social inequality kills young girls and women. Today marks an urgent occasion to mobilize national governments and international agencies to do what is smart and what is right. Empowering women saves lives and guarantees the wellbeing of households, communities and entire nations.

HIV infection among women is on the increase, and Nepal government still lacks programmes targeted at HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment of those women and girls. A woman living with HIV faces many challenges: her access to health services, care, counseling and information is likely to be severely limited. Equally restricted are her options to feed and care for herself and her family. Inadequate provision of health care services in the region has resulted in many women losing their lives. They are often deprived of rights to housing, property or inheritance or even adequate health services.

In rural areas, AIDS has caused the collapse of coping systems that for centuries have helped women to feed their families during times of drought and famine. This, in turn, leads to family break-ups, displacement and migration, and yet greater risk of HIV infection.

We must make sure that women and girls have all the skills and confidence they need to protect themselves. We must encourage men to replace risk-taking with responsibility.

A prevention programs cannot be successful and sustainable in Nepal where women are financially dependent and cannot control what happens to their own bodies. HIV/AIDS prevention programs must include economic and educational initiatives for women. We need a new approach. A number of factors may lead to lower survival rates in women. HIV progresses in women, even if no one notices until a serious crisis brings them to an emergency room, and even while they are depended on to maintain the health of others. Symptoms of HIV in women are late in gaining recognition, with an according lag in effective treatments.

We should introduce immediately models of HIV prevention and improved reproductive health that incorporate economic interventions and educational initiatives for women and we should also design all HIV/AIDS prevention programs so that they are fully integrated with other reproductive health programs in every country and meet the gender-specific needs of women". Feminist activist Nirupama Sharma made the above comments while speaking to the Peoples' Review recently.

Systemic abuses of the right to be free from discrimination, the right to prevention, treatment and care, the right to physical and mental integrity, and the right to freely receive and impart information not only exacerbate the spread of HIV/AIDS, but also fuel a cycle whereby people suspected of being infected with HIV are subjected to further human rights abuses on account of their real or perceived status.

To be effective in the fight against AIDS we must put into practice what we have long espoused in principle: that all human rights are interdependent and indivisible. Once infected with the HIV virus, they may be further stigmatized, subjected to assault or ill-treatment, refused entry into foreign countries, turned away from medical and social services, or denied housing and employment. The fear of such discrimination may in turn discourage them from disclosing their status or seeking treatment, thus exacerbating the impact of the disease.

Food aid plays a pivotal role in responding to HIV/AIDS. The first thing poor families affected by AIDS ask for is not cash or drugs, it is food. Food has to be one of the weapons in the arsenal against this disease. Women need to be more responsible and level-headed about the relationship they chose to enter into. Fighting this crisis is not just about women's rights to health, but their right to equality and freedom from discrimination.

Women's Health

Most of the women's deaths in can be prevented by current medical knowledge, but there are many reasons why mothers continue to die.There are cultural and social causes that increase the risk of women's death during pregnancy

It is necessary that understand the importance of women's day and provide them with various training, education and family planning services. It is also necessary to make arrangements for their social and financial development.

The dangers attached to repeated pregnancy and abortion can be reduced by teaching safe methods of birth control and advocating women's right from the grassroots level. Only then can the maternal mortality be checked and reduced to some extent.

The lack of family planning programs in the rural areas, unwanted pregnancy due to the lack of preventive measures, criminal offenses like rape and illicit sexual relations ending in abortion, leads to the death of 50 percent of women in Asia.

More and more women in South Asia are not in favor of having many children, but these women do not have an easy access to the various types of a family planning facilities.

Even, the five-year review of progress shows that the implementation of the recommendations of the ICPD has demonstrated positive results. However, for some countries and regions, progress has been limited, and in some cases setbacks have occurred.Women and the girls continue to face discrimination.

At the International Women;s day recognized the importance of improving access to health care, education and employment opportunities to improve women's development.

In too many countries, girls still do not have the same chance to be educated as boys. Too many women still can not choose when or whether to become pregnant. Too many women are sexual violence, especially during conflict. Too many women resort to abortions that are not safe.

Women's trafficking

Women's problems are similar in many countries. Lack of commitment and policy implementation pose as obstacles in solving the crisis.

Indeed, the government needs to act actively to abolish the practics of flesh trade. Because of educating and provding oppertunities for women, the government would be doing service not to the women alone but in checking the spread of disease like AIDS which might one day engulf the whole generation. There are both socal and economic problems which have contributed to the upward treand of girl tafficking. Lack of education, awareness and oppertunities has contributed to the rise of flash trade.

Violence against Women

Violence Against Women is one of the major women's issues recognized by women groups and activists in South Asia. There are several acts categorized as Violence Against women in the context of our society, namely trafficking in women and girls, forced prostitution, rape, battering, dowery-lated abuses murder, sexual abuse on the streets, public transport and in work place, sexual harassment, hijacking or kidnapping, suicide, hild marriage polygamy etc.

All forms of the VAW are related to social, cultural, economic, political and legal structures. In other words, they are reflections of our attitude toward and treatment of women. It is certain that unless the male supremacy in every sphere of the society and the subordinate, we can not end Violence against Women

On the basis of general observation and random study of the media, it is quite clear that women have been misreport, misrepresented and portrayed merely as objects of sexual pleasure and entertainment in the mainstream media. Misreporting and weak presentation of women by the media at present have become the toughest challenge for women who are lagging far behind and are victims of violence.

The political economic and social empowement of women is a prerequisite for development. The Jakarta Declaration and UN Commission on status of women's indicate that priority must be given to attaining the goal of equality through gender responsive development policies.

The discriminatory system has put women in a powerless, disadvantaged position right from the beginning. Education is imperative as it can only help women in to improve their life economically, educationally, politically and legally.

It is extremely important to fight this abominable practice. But while trying to stop this we should also work to rehabilitate trafficked women and provide them with proper employment opportunities. The International Women;s day is quite significant in the sense that it calls for all the concerned agencies and individuals to contribute to the empowerment of women.

Although women are found carrying out most of the farming and household chores, they have nominal access to real property, savings and credit.

The armed conflict has come out as yet another serious obstacle to the development of women. Women and children are the groups hit hard by the insurgency. Everyday countless innocent victims including children and women die in insurgency.

It is a bitter reality that most of the women, are still backward in terms of their socio-economic condition.


(Kamala Sarup is editor of / )

© Scoop Media

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