We’re almost at the halfway mark of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, which extends through March 12. This morning I attended the launch of the Women ARISE, a campaign to promote the human rights of all women and girls affected by HIV. The conversation was directed mostly toward to goal of raising the visibility of women and girls at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna in July 2010.
One of the main drivers of the HIV epidemic is gender inequality. Globally, about half of all people living with HIV are female, and in every region of the world, the number of women contracting HIV is on the rise. Moreover, young women are increasingly vulnerable to HIV, with roughly 45% of all new infections occurring among 15-24 year olds. It is imperative, therefore, that at the International AIDS Conference, women and girls’ perspectives, voices, and realities are reflected.
Women from different networks and organizations and involvement in the HIV/AIDS response identified some key areas of work for highlighting women at the next AIDS Conference. We hope that these will be taken into account in future planning processes, from Vienna and beyond.
The name of the initiative, Women ARISE, is an acronym that stands for:
Argentinian feminist Mabel Bianco, who is a former member of the IWHC Board of Directors, is the coordinator of the initiative. She led a discussion among leaders from around the world, including directors of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and UN agencies, about what needs to happen in order to enable women to lead the fight against HIV.
There was a lot of discussion about funding streams and the need for funders to prioritize the needs of women. However, one of the most emphasized points that people from all regions of the world kept coming back to was the idea that governments, NGOs, and policy makers need to regard women as experts on their own lives and experiences. While the UN system is often regarded as having a model of “implementation” – a top-down way of delivering services and guiding research initiatives – the advocates in the room all spoke to the need for services and policies to be responsive to the expressed needs of women and girls on the ground.