Women’s rights in developing world crucial to victory over AIDS, U.N. says
November 23, 2004
LONDON – The women’s rights movement and the AIDS movement must come together if the world is to ultimately win the fight against HIV, the United Nations said in a report released Tuesday.
Women and girls in the developing world are increasingly becoming its main victims, but current safe-sex prevention strategies are of little use to the millions who don’t have the power to say no to sex or to insist on condom use.
The inequality women face – from poverty and stunted education, to rape and denial of women’s inheritance and property rights – is a major obstacle to victory over the virus, according to the latest global HIV status report published by UNAIDS.
The core of HIV prevention is advice to abstain from sex until marriage, be faithful and to use condoms.
“The prevention strategies now in place are missing the point when it comes to women and girls,” Dr. Kathleen Cravero, deputy chief of UNAIDS told a news conference. “We are finding in most regions of the world, they simply do not have the economic and social power or choices, or control over their lives to put that information into practice.”
AIDS prevention strategies need to address the factors that will give women control over their lives, the report said.
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“Moving to a situation where every woman gets to keep her house, her land and her furniture when her partner dies is not beyond the realm of possibility,” Cravero said. “It doesn’t even require turning society on its head. It requires getting the right laws there and making them enforceable for women.”
AIDS has to be the catalyst for women’s rights in the developing world, UNAIDS chief Dr. Peter Piot told The Associated Press.
“There was reason enough before AIDS, but now the link between the whole gender inequality and death has never been so direct as with AIDS,” Piot said. “If AIDS is not enough to shift the agenda for women, then what is enough?”
“It’s time now for the women’s movement and the AIDS movement to find each other, and that hasn’t happened yet,” Piot said. “Ultimately, without putting women at the heart of the response to AIDS, I don’t think we will be able to control this epidemic.”
Violence against women is a worldwide scourge, but it is feeding the HIV epidemics in the developing world, where women and girls often don’t have the power to say no to sex or to insist on condom use.