Ms. magazine  -- more than a magazine a movement

SIGN UP FOR MS. DIGEST, JOBS, NEWS AND ALERTS

FEMINIST WIRE NEWSBRIEFS

ABOUT
SEE CURRENT ISSUE
SHOP MS. STORE
MS. IN THE CLASSROOM
FEMINIST DAILY WIRE
FEMINIST RESOURCES
PRESS
JOBS AT MS.
READ BACK ISSUES
CONTACT
RSS (XML)
 
feminist wire | daily newsbriefs

October-01-01

Gender Matters

It's been said that girl power is Africa's own vaccine against HIV, and that should be true for the whole world," stated Kofi Annan, secretary general of the United Nations, during the organization's first-ever Special Session on HIV/AIDS in late June. But it was the global women's movement that successfully pushed to turn that rhetoric into a set of specific commitments from world leaders to address gender discrimination as the central issue fueling the spread of HIV/ AIDS. As a result, the conference's Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS includes some of the strongest gender empowerment language of any international statement to date. "Until now, getting anyone to perceive this as a gender issue has been an uphill battle," says Madhu Bala Nath, who is an adviser to the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).

It's about time. According to recent UNIFEM statistics, 47 percent of all people infected with HIV are women; women account for 60 percent of new HIV infections worldwide; over half of all HIV-positive adults in sub-Saharan Africa are women; and sub-Saharan girls are five times more likely to be infected than boys. "In many societies," says Monica Sharma, an adviser to UNAIDS, which has been tracking the epidemic through the U.N., "women are relatively powerless to negotiate safe sex with a partner," often leading to coerced sex and sexual violence. Both traditional and exploitative practices, such as early marriage, female genital mutilation, incest, forced prostitution, and rape (including marital rape) are contributing factors to the gender dimension of AIDS. Often, unmarried women do not receive HIV/AIDS information because of the widespread belief that a woman should be uninformed about sex until marriage. Then there's the myth in some communities that sex with a virgin will cure HIV, which is also partially responsible for high-infection rates among girls and women.

"The key gain for women is the unqualified championing of their right to control decisions pertaining to their sexuality," says Kathleen Cravero, M.D., deputy executive director of UNAIDS. The declaration calls for the involvement of women's and girl's groups in recognition of the fact that they are strong, positive actors working to reverse the epidemic. It mandates increased access to information, along with greater availability of reproductive technologies like the female condom and microbicides. The special economic needs of women caregivers are acknowledged, and on the issue of mother-to-child transmission, the declaration also states that HIV-positive mothers should receive anti-retroviral treatment (such as AZT), as well as counseling during and after their pregnancy. "We fought hard for language that placed as much of a priority on keeping the mother alive as the baby," says Sharma.

The next stages include getting governments to draft national action plans and establishing a global fund to finance the campaign. According to Noeleen Heyzer, executive director of UNIFEM, if women remain as involved in the decisions of the global fund as they were in negotiations over the declaration's language, "we will have learned from history and not be doomed to repeat it."

Back to Ms.

Media Resources: MsMagazine


© Feminist Majority Foundation, publisher of Ms. magazine

If you liked this story, consider making a tax-deductible donation to support Ms. magazine.

 

 

Send to a Friend
Their
Your
Comments
(optional)


More Feminist News

12/22/2014 McDonald's Responsible for 86 Cases of Misconduct Against Workers - The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled Friday that the McDonald's corporation is responsible for several dozen complaints of retaliatory conduct against workers fighting for job improvements. Since November 2012, 291 charges have been filed against McDonald's franchisees. . . .
 
12/22/2014 President Obama Calls Only On Women During 2014's Last Press Conference - In case you missed it, President Obama on Friday held his last press conference of 2014 - and when it was time for questions, he only called on women. The press corps has long been dominated by men, and Helen Thomas became the first female reporter to cover the White House in 1960. It was not the first time President Obama took questions from only women. . . .
 
12/19/2014 Woman on Life Support Revives Ireland Abortion Debate - Debate surrounding Ireland's ban on abortion has come up again following a current case involving a woman who is being kept on life support because she is pregnant. The woman's family wants her to be taken off life support, but doctors refuse because Irish law says they must do what they can to protect the 16-week-old fetus. . . .