AIDS 2012: Turning the Tide for Women and Girls Print {sharethis label=}

The theme of the 19th International AIDS Conference is “Turning the Tide Together,” an expression of the hope that recent advances in AIDS treatment, and the evidence that treatment can sharply reduce HIV transmission, might signal the “beginning of the end of AIDS.” Not everyone, of course, is so optimistic that we are the verge of an “AIDS-free generation,” but that hope is widely expressed at this conference in Washington, DC.

Last evening, CCIH was invited to an exclusive consultation at the National Museum of Women in the Arts entitled “Turning the tide for women and girls.” U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius spoke of the extent to which the face of the AIDS pandemic globally has become a female face, with HIV prevalence among women in Africa higher than among men, and the rate of infectivity among young women and girls much higher than the corresponding rate among young men and boys. Globally, about half of HIV positive individuals are male and half female.

The most memorable part of this consultation was the video entitled “Mandisa’s Story,” an account of a six-year old South African girl raped by a neighbor man.  That girl, Mandisa Madikane, now in her 20s, has become a Global Girl Media Reporter. She shared her story about how she is now working to give voice to voiceless girls to work for empowerment of girls and to address the heavy burden of gender-based violence in South Africa.

Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on survey data on gender-based violence showing that one in three African women have experienced gender-based violence. And of course, much of it goes unreported.

Ambassador Melanne Verveer of the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues in the Department of State talked about the growing awareness of the importance of engaging men and boys in modeling different, more respectful, behaviors for boys. She insisted that gender-based violence is not a cultural issue but should be treated as a criminal issue.

Dr. Rajiv Shah, USAID Administrator, reported that under PEPFAR, $135 million has been allocated to address gender-based violence because of the awareness that it has a significant impact on AIDS transmission. He said that the relevance of gender-based violence to AIDS and health issues has been understood for some time, but that it has been a challenge to identify effective interventions to operationalize that understanding. The U.S. Government effort now is often referred to as gender mainstreaming. (CCIH member IMA World Health has a grant to address gender-based violence in eastern DR Congo).

Thokozani Khupe, Deputy Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, spoke about the sharp reduction in HIV prevalence in her country from 28% to 14% and credited this progress both to increased condom use and to behavioral change.

Ambassador Dr. Eric Goosby, Global AIDS Coordinator and head of PEPFAR, also spoke of the effort to integrate gender-based violence concerns into PEPFAR. The evening’s panel discussion was opened and closed by Lois Quam, Executive Director of the President’s Global Health Initiative. A Lutheran inspired by her faith, she was a keynote speaker at CCIH’s June annual conference.  

For much more information about the AIDS pandemic and how it affects women, view What Works for Women. For information on gender issues, sponsored among others by Becton, Dickinson, and Company, one of the sponsors of last evening’s meeting, see Together for Girls.





Last Updated ( Thursday, 26 July 2012 16:41 )