UNAIDS Launches Plan To Address Gender Equality, HIV/AIDS

UNAIDS on Tuesday launched a five-year initiative to help tackle gender inequalities and human rights violations that increase the vulnerability of women worldwide to HIV/AIDS, BBC reports (3/3).

“Nearly 30 years into the HIV epidemic, [UNAIDS Executive Director Michel] Sidibe said, growing inequality between women and men and human rights violations against women including ‘brutal rapes’ and trafficking for prostitution are putting women and girls at greater risk of HIV infections,” the Associated Press/Star reports (3/3).

Of the estimated 33.4 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, almost half are thought to be women, according to the U.N., Kyodo News reports. “The proportion of infected women has increased alarmingly over the last decade,” the news service notes, with HIV/AIDS now the leading killer of women between the ages of 15 and 49, worldwide (Magee, 3/2).

The “Agenda for Accelerated Country Action for Women, Girls, Gender Equality and HIV” (.pdf) was unveiled during the 54th meeting on the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), according to a UNAIDS article about the report. UNAIDS added that the agenda “calls on the U.N. system to support governments, civil society and development partners in reinforcing country actions to put women and girls at the centre of the AIDS response, ensuring that their rights are protected.”

According to UNAIDS, the plan outlines ways the U.N. can work with partners to increase the amount of educational materials about HIV/AIDS that targets the needs of women and girls, bolster commitments to HIV/AIDS programs for women and girls, curb violence against women and promote women’s human rights on an international scale.

“Violence against women is unacceptable and must not be tolerated,” Sidibe said during a news conference, according to UNAIDS. “By robbing them of their dignity, we are losing the opportunity to tap half the potential of mankind to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Women and girls are not victims, they are the driving force that brings about social transformation” (3/2).

With 400,000 babies born HIV positive every year in Africa, Sidibe warned that the impact of HIV/AIDS among women extends to their children as well, VOA News writes. “[A]mongst those babies which are born, we will have almost 30 percent of those babies will die before their first anniversary [birthday] if they do not have access to medicine,” Sidibe said (Besheer, 3/2).

“Women are the face (of HIV/AIDS) now,” said singer Annie Lennox, who joined Sibide during the announcement, CNN reports. “Stigma runs from the very top echelons of society, all the way down to the poor. (The women) have to be able to come out of the shadows, and we must represent them,” she added (Gilbert, 3/3).

Reflecting on the UNAIDS initiative, Sidibe explained, “What we are trying to do is create a new movement, to mobilize the world around a new urgency – urgency which is about stopping violence against women … an urgency which will call for a new mobilization of leaders in order to reduce the number of new infections among girls,” the AP/Star adds (3/3).

“UNAIDS and partners will support the country roll-out of the Agenda for Action in pathfinder countries, including Liberia,” according to the UNAIDS article (3/2).

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