An estimated 15.4 million women are living with HIV globally today, but instead of receiving the care and support of their community, many of them get maltreated, disrespected and abused for no other reason than that of being a positive woman.
The dynamics of this gender-based discrimination are complex and their roots run deep within the confines of culture and society, yet many organisations are doing an extraordinary job at raising awareness of these issues.
One such organisation is the Sophia Forum – a UK-based network of women and organisations, part of the UNAIDS-coordinated Global Coalition on Women and AIDS.
On October 1, 2009, the Sophia Forum co-hosted a panel discussion in London, entitled “In Sickness and in Health: Women and HIV in 2009”, together with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine’s TARGET Consortium.
The event, supported by the Durex Network, sought to draw on the expertise of three global HIV/AIDS experts: Professor Jane Anderson, director of the Centre for the Study of Sexual Health and HIV at Homerton University Hospital, London; Winnie Ssanyu Sseruma, Christian Aid’s HIV Mainstreaming coordinator; and Dr Peter Piot, founding executive director of UNAIDS.
The speakers explored two central themes – the multi-dimensional nature of HIV/AIDS and the positive side of the battle against the pandemic – and their presentations was followed by a Q&A session.
One of the highlights of the event for me was to learn about how services offered to HIV positive women can become more holistic, incorporating not only medical treatment but also emotional support and care – making them feel welcome and respected.
Our mission at the Durex Network is to develop and support initiatives that seek to educate people about their sexual health so that they are empowered to make informed choices. However, the world is still a long way away from the guarantee that these choices are offered to everyone, every day.
It is for this very reason that we, at the Durex Network, will continue to work alongside likeminded organisations to ensure everyone is afforded equal chances when it comes to sexual health.
Peter Roach is Vice President of the Durex Network.