8th March 2020
An Equal World for All Women – A pre-requisite for ending the HIV epidemic by 2030”
The International community of Women Living with HIV Eastern Africa (ICWEA) joins the rest of the world to celebrate the International Women’s Day (IWD) 2020. As we celebrate the IWD, we should remember to celebrate the many achievements and successes that women and girls have attained over the years. We should celebrate the courage and determination of dignified individuals that was aimed at improving the quality of life as well as securing women’s rights. The Global theme “An Equal World is an Enabled World” challenges us that more effort is needed to achieve our ambitions; accelerate gender-balanced leadership, respect and value differences created by the HIV epidemic. This theme is about celebrating women’s achievements and raising awareness against bias as well as taking action for equality and unity.
Women living with HIV have been advocating for a world, free of stigma, discrimination and HIV criminalization through immeasurable efforts of remarkable women trailblazers and visible progress has been made in the fight for equality and justice. ICWEA honors and salutes women living with HIV worldwide for their vital role in shaping and strengthening our communities, families, and businesses. We celebrate their vision, leadership and courage, and pledge to keep fighting till we reach the equality level we wish to see, and till the equal world that we see in our dreams and vision is real and true.
The rate of new HIV infection in women is propagated by gender inequality, VAW, poverty and inferiority complex. Most of the women living with HIV are single mothers with children infected and affected by HIV and they have no source of income to improve their nutrition and live better lives. ICWEA joins other organizations working for and with women living with HIV to call on world leaders to provide sufficient resources for stopping new HIV infections among women and girls. ICWEA has championed initiatives to promote social economic empowerment of women living with HIV through projects that support women movement building, GEWE, EVAWG and ending stigma and discrimination in society. However, the gap towards An Equal World is still wide and glaring; therefore, for us, “an enabled world means”.
- Ending violence against women living with HIV. Violence against women is associated with an increased risk of acquiring STIs, a risk factor of HIV. Well as the fear of violence prevents women from seeking voluntary counseling and testing for HIV, returning for their test results, or getting treatment if they are HIV positive or services to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission. Women living with HIV should be oriented on their rights and be encouraged to speak up if abused.
- Removing structural barriers that limit access to and utilization of SRHR services by marginalized women. Structural violence raises from poor health policies and practices that harm or fail to protect citizens from avoidable violations, deaths and injustices. Women of all ages, health status, sexual orientation and disability have experienced negative health outcomes core to their existence and dignity as human beings. Many girls and women are still unable to reach their full potential because of persistent health, social and gender inequalities and health system inadequacies. Our governments have the duty to protect, promote and fulfil our human dignity, life and health.
- Creating favorable policies, laws and legal environments: In many parts of the world, countries including those in Eastern Africa have HIV laws or bills that criminalize HIV. While there is no public health evidence that criminalization of HIV is effective at ending the spread of HIV, there is glaring evidence that it has potential to up root decades of efforts to end the epidemic. The negative impact of these laws is more felt in women than their male counterparts. These HIV laws infringe on the rights of women and girls, fuel stigma and discrimination, discourage women from seeking diagnosis and treatment out of concern for their privacy or negative social repercussions. There should therefore be amendment of the HIV Laws that are likely to undo the work done to end the epidemic. Laws and policies that disrespect the confidentially of women should be reviewed, recalled and abolished. Laws that take into account SRHR needs and priorities of women living with HIV should be adopted.
- Empowerment of Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) living with HIV: AGYW have been identified as a group at disproportionate higher risk of acquiring HIV. Despite only accounting for 11% of the global adult population, AGYW account for 20% of all new HIV acquisitions among adults. This gender imbalance is even more severe in high HIV prevalence geographical areas. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 80% of the world’s AGYW living with HIV. This unequal distribution of HIV transmission has prompted a global focus on adolescents as a target population for HIV prevention. AGYW need to be empowered with adequate SRH information an economic skill, so as to reduce the risk of getting HIV and for those who live with HIV to adhere to treatment and live healthy lives.
ICWEA remain cautious in our quest of equality and opportunities so that all women and girls living with HIV may glare new trails, chase their dreams and reach their goals.