Much attention will be placed, on today’s observance of International Women’s Day, on the advancements that have been made over the last century.
But a call has come from the Caribbean Coalition on Women, Girls and AIDS (CCWA) for focus on women and girls who are marginalised by the effects of HIV and AIDS.
“According to statistics from PAHO and WHO and UNAIDS, HIV now affects women and men equally and is the leading cause of death among people aged 20-59 years in the Caribbean. However recent data estimate the incidence of AIDS among females at between three to six times higher than that of males in the 15-24 year old age group,” a CCWA press release noted.
CCWA contends that the increasing statistics where females and HIV and AIDS are concerned “is largely due to the unique vulnerabilities of women and girls in becoming infected with the virus. Many of these factors include cultural ideologies, economic constraints and both individual and institutional discrimination that place women and girls at greater risk, particularly HIV positive women.”
Violence and the threat of violence also increase women’s and girls’ vulnerability to HIV, since they can not negotiate safe sex, CCWA said.
CCWA, a regional network of individuals and organisations committed to advocating for improved HIV and AIDS programming for women and girls, has identified four thematic areas for focus.
They are reducing violence against women and girls, given the link between sexual violence and HIV transmission; preventing HIV infection, particularly among adolescent girls, by improving access to reproductive health care including female condoms; promoting universal access to prevention options; and providing support for women’s care-giving work within the household and community and to seek to promote women’s leadership in the AIDS response.