Women must be involved in HIV
Women must be involved in HIV/AIDS campaign
the AIDS epidem unfolds, women constitute increasing proportions of the
afflicted. According to UNDP HIV/AIDS statistical fact sheet, 70 per cent of all
adults living with HIV/AIDS are in Africa. Africa has a total number of 28.5
million people with HIV/AIDS showing an increase of 30 per cent over five years.
With regards to women and HIV/AIDS, women make up 58 per cent of people
living with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, which is home to 29.4 million people
living with HIV/AIDS.
Various reasons have been advanced by exports why HIV/AIDS has affected more
women then men. Some of the reasons are; lack of care of women in developing
countries, gender discrimination, the fact that women are more exposed in a
sexual relation than men, and, of course, poverty.
These were the factors that motivated Africa leadership Forum (ALF) to
organise a regional conference recently in Abuja on the them: "Leadership
challenges for African women in the HIV/AIDS campaign." The conference took
place between June 23 and 25, 2003, at Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Abuja.
The objectives of the conference, according to Mr. Ayodele Aderinwale,
Executive Director of ALF, were to develop strategies to strengthen women’s
capabilities on promoting effective gender sensitive responses to HIV/AIDS,
review existing regional and national mechanisms on HIV/AIDS with regard to the
gender balance and content, build a strong regional network of critical women
organisations and individuals on HIV/AIDS, among others.
During the first session of the conference, which was chaired by Dr. Timiebi
Koripamo - Agary, Gender Consultant and Director , Federal Agency for Natural
Medicine, Dr. Sonia Spencer, Director, Society for Women Against AIDS in Africa
- Sierra Leone (SWAAL) chapter, painted a vivid picture of the impact of
HIV/AIDS on women and girls in Africa.
According to Dr Spencer strong but supportive national policies based on
human rights, poverty reduction strategies are needed to ensure appropriate
responses at all levels of society. She also suggested that developing
programmes aimed at helping women survive longer should not be just an exercise
in humanitarian relief but a sound development strategy.
Also, Mrs Yetunde Teriba of Gender Directorate, commissioner of the Africa
union, provided a road map to strategic mainstreaming of women’s leadership
roles in the campaign against HIV/AIDS. Ms Eve Thompson, Executive Director,
United Nations University International Leadership Academy. Jordan, chaired this
Other presentations were made by Ms Jane Ogot, coordinator, Kenyan’s
political caucus, Dr. Omokhudu Idogho, Team leader, HIV/AIDS, Action AID, Ms
Anne Githuku, HIV and Development Programme South Africa, Ms Yasmin Sheriff,
Femmes Africa Solidarite, Ms Viola Morgan, Gender Programme, UNDP, New York,
The participants, after exhaustic deliberation noted that:
•That HIV/AIDS has become a major threat to the socio-economic development,
peace and stability in Africa. HIV/AIDS is the most potent and deadly enemy of
Africa and in the AIDS pandemic, there are no winners as the future of Africa is
being mortgaged on daily basis.
•African women are not adequately empower to protect themselves from the
scourge of HIV/AIDS neither have they sufficient space to interface and
influence the policy framework and mechanisms being deployed to combat the
•The imperative of women empowerment in Africa is further heightened by the
fact that national responses design strategies that do not address the
underlying cultural and social practices that make women and men vulnerable to
HIV infection. Also, absence of appropriate policy frameworks and legal systems
have further exacerbated women’s vulnerability to HIV/AIDS and even where such
frameworks and systems exist implementation is often ineffective.
•The influence of Africa’s cultural environment and the patriarchal
nature of our social interaction and norms as well as the physiological make up
of women has created adequate room for women’s vulnerability and the
feminisation of HIV/AIDS in Africa. It was further noted that the pattern and
nature of the infection and nature of the infection among women and girls is
largely fuelled by the factors of gender inequality and poverty.