Women not included in HIV/Aids decision making says UNIFEM

A United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) report has highlighted the world’s failure to include women in decision-making in the HIV and AIDS response, despite a significant rise in the epidemic among women.

According to Ines Alberdi, executive director of UNIFEM, accelerating progress in the response to HIV is impossible when women are invisible in decision-making.

“Through our work on the ground we have repeatedly heard the voices of women as they provide concrete examples of what can work on the ground in preventing or reducing the epidemic, but these voices are missing in policy responses,” said Alberdi.

Entitled Transforming the National AIDS Response: Advancing Women’s Leadership and Participation, the report provides a clear assessment of the challenges women — particularly HIV-positive women — face in fully participating in policy-setting mechanisms and identified strategies which can be adopted to advance their involvement.

Alberdi further highlighted the importance of effective participation of women, especially HIV-positive women, in being part of the solutions and in finding sustainable, effective strategies to address HIV and AIDS.

Almost half of the 31.3 million HIV-positive adults in the world are women, with the numbers rising rapidly each day.

According to the report, 60 per cent of adults living with the disease in Sub-Saharan Africa are women, while in the Caribbean HIV prevalence rates among women have increased from 46 per cent in 2001 to 53 per cent in 2008, making it the second most affected region after sub-Saharan Africa. Additionally, about 40 per cent of newly reported HIV cases in Eastern Europe and Central Asia in 2006 were among women.

But in spite of this rising trend, and women often being at the front-line of the epidemic, several factors restrict women’s engagement in finding solutions to the pandemic.

According to the UNIFEM report, the women interviewed cited stigma, lack of access to information, the burden of care giving and women’s multiple responsibilities in the home as well as illiteracy, as contributing factors.

“As this report demonstrates, getting a seat at the table where decisions are made on issues like how to access treatment in remote villages, how to educate communities about prevention of HIV, how to reach out to women who often face violence or discrimination if they reveal their status, is often next to impossible for an HIV-positive woman,” said Tyler Crone, lead author of the report.

On the opening day of the XV111 International Conference, a panel of 10 HIV infected women made recommendations as a roadmap for governments, donors, civil society and others involved in the AIDS response to ensure women’s participation.

Among the recommendations are for infected women, home-based caregivers and young women be recognised as key stakeholders in the AIDS response. They also recommended that there be reserved formal places for full participation and leadership in decision-making bodies.

It was also recommended that investments be made in organisations and initiatives led by HIV-positive women, especially community-based ones.



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