Voices from the Women's Community Forum at ICAAP

The Women's Community Forum organized in lead up to the 10th International AIDS Congress in Asia and the Pacific (10th ICAAP) in Busan, South Korea, has undoubtedly made it clear: women and girls need to be recognized not only as key affected populations but also as equal partners at all levels of HIV responses in local contexts.

The Final Statement from the Women's Community Forum, states:

Women and girls constitute key affected communities. We are women and girls of all ages and diverse sexualities, we are women and girls living with HIV, female sex workers, transgender women, migrant women, women who use drugs. We are AIDS widows, AIDS orphans, wives and intimate partners of MSMs, PLHIV, and people who use drugs. We share a lot of vulnerabilities and challenges faced by all key affected communities but because of our gender, we experience those vulnerabilities and challenges differently.

Women’s rights and gender equality is central to the success of the HIV response. If we want a truly effective, relevant and reality-grounded HIV response, then that response needs to be gendered and equitable. Our participation at all levels must be meaningful.

To achieve this, targeted and sustained investments need to be made in the areas of: 

- Capacity and leadership development for key affected women and girls
- Movement building and mobilization among and between key affected women and girls
- Ensuring sustainable core funding to support positive women’s networks.
- Evidence-based research to guide targeted interventions  for most at risk and most affected women, including those within key affected populations to ensure that their specific needs and rights are addressed.

And here are our specific messages on the 3 themes of the Community Forum:

Key affected women and girls are entitled to equal and stigma-free access to treatment and services; we must be able to exercise their right to comprehensive education, services, and commodities related to sexual and reproductive health including HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support.

Key affected women and girls must have equitable access to treatment literacy. Programmes must be rights-based and gender-sensitive; must never limit women's full range of choices; and must be considered in the larger context of sexual and reproductive health and rights. Recent work on intimate partner transmission should be used to inform approaches to comprehensive counselling and treatment as prevention in the context of serodiscordant couples.

Recent studies in this region have clearly demonstrated that traditional and entrenched gender inequities exacerbate a disproportionate impact of HIV's socio-economic burden on key affected women and girls underscoring the need for gendered approaches to social protection and human rights. Policy responses aimed at addressing the socio-economic impact of HIV must include specific programmes to address the impact on women and girls. Programmes must actively involve women and girls in design, implementation, monitoring amd evaluation; and must incorporate the multiple roles that women and girls occupy in their contexts. Programmes must be sensitive to the difference between protection of human rights and violations of those very rights; respecting the self-determination and autonomy of women and girls. Sexual and reproductive rights and freedoms must be recognised as a fundamental human right.

For more information, please contact: Asia Pacific Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (APA)


Published in:
Citizen News Service(CNS), India/Thailand
Wikio News, Africa
Elites TV News, California, USA
Health Dev.net, Thailand