World YWCA Statement on the XIX International AIDS Conference
Washington, D.C., July 22 – 27, 2012
This week, the World YWCA joins the youth and women’s networks and faith community to advocate for women’s human rights to be placed at the center of the global HIV and AIDS response. Recognizing that despite the tide turning, the proportion of women living with HIV remains high at 50 percent globally with higher rates in sub-Saharan Africa (59 percent) and the Caribbean (53 percent). Infection rates among young women remain unacceptably high, making up 61 percent of all new infections. Gender-based violence continue as a significant driver of infection among women, particularly in conflict and post-conflict countries. Women and girls living with HIV remain with limited access to treatment, as well as comprehensive and quality access to sexual and reproductive health information and services.
The World YWCA calls for the affirmation of women’s leadership and the framing of women’s human rights as a significant pillar in sustaining the progress in reducing morbidity and rising HIV and AIDS infection among women. The World YWCA strongly advocates for effective leadership of young women and girls through training and capacity building to enhance their knowledge and decision making capabilities enabling them to claim their rights. This approach calls for increased resources and investment on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) programs that will empower women and girls in all their diversities to access reproductive health services, creating opportunities for overcoming stigma and discrimination and achieving positive reproductive health outcomes. In order to turn the tide on women’s HIV infection, the World YWCA draws specific attention to the following priorities:
1. Empower young women with access to comprehensive and age-appropriate sexuality education and services
Knowledge about HIV is the first step to avoiding its transmission, yet many young women are not informed, remain unprotected, vulnerable, and at risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV. Young women participating in some YWCA’s safe space forums have raised concern that HIV remains a social problem. Despite the scientific achievements, factors such as their inability to claim sexual and reproductive health rights or access to services, pervasive violence against women, harmful traditional practices, and limited economic resources and access to education, remain barriers for claiming legal rights and making informed decisions, leaving a majority of young women vulnerable to infection through unsafe coerced sex, rape and sexual violence. This results in unintended pregnancy, unsafe abortion, reproductive health complications and exposure to STIs and HIV.
2. Provide safe, inclusive and empowering spaces for people living with HIV and affirm the equal dignity of all human beings
Women and young women around the world demand dignity. As stigma continues to drive the epidemic and prevents people from accessing treatment and support, successful interventions must support women and young women to get tested for HIV, know their status, access support structures and enjoy their sexual and reproductive rights, without fear of prejudice or discrimination.
3. Adequate program resources and universal access to SRHR and HIV treatment care and support services
HIV programs and policies need to better address the specific realities and needs of women and girls, respect and protect their human rights. HIV services providing essential sexual and reproductive health care remain insufficient. There are continued reports of women living with HIV being pressured, and sometimes forced, not to have children, as a requirement for AIDS treatment, or when they do have children, losing access to health services and having the increased burden of child care without support from their partners, family or community.
As the world gathers for the XIX International AIDS Conference, the World YWCA calls for effective solutions and approaches that affirm and protect the rights of women. Now is the time to overcome injustices and ensure that AIDS responses improve the lives of women and girls.
Present in over 120 countries, in 22,000 communities and with an outreach of 25 million women and girls, the World YWCA movement has over 20 years of experience in community and global interventions on HIV prevention, care and support, grounded through programmes and services on HIV and sexual and reproductive rights in 70 countries.
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