Unzip The Lips on HIV and key affected women and girls

Unzip The Lips, an Asia Pacific regional campaign supported by a range of organizations and networks, is gaining momentum as Women Deliver 2013 opened in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Unzip The Lips campaign made a six-point appeal to estimated 5000 delegates who are attending Women Deliver 2013.

The six points include:
FIRST: to recognize that women and girls who are sex workers, use drugs and/or are transgender are most‐at‐risk of HIV infection and that their needs are neglected. Unzip The Lips campaign calls to governments and other donors to commit to comprehensively work with these communities in national HIV responses and ensure that rights‐based services are available to them.

SECOND: Remove barriers to women and girl’s access to non‐judgmental and gender-sensitive legal and health services, including those related to sexual and reproductive health and HIV. For migrant and mobile women and girls, these services should be available wherever they are – in their places of origin, transit and destination.

THIRD: Reduce intimate partner transmission by scaling up programs that support work with key affected communities that guarantee the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls, and that end gender‐based violence.

FOURTH: Ensure access to comprehensive gender and sexuality education, including contraceptive literacy, for girls and boys both in and out of school.

FIFTH: Invest in women and girls’ leadership, and guarantee the sustainability of community organizations and groups working for key affected communities through core funding.

SIXTH: Strengthen all laws and policies to protect the human rights of key affected women and girls, including women and girls living with HIV. This requires, among others, making safe abortion services and the full range of contraceptive options available for positive women and all other women in need, and ensuring an enabling environment by decriminalizing drug use, same‐sex behavior and relationships, transmission of HIV, and all forms of sex work. Stigma and discrimination in health care settings against key affected women and girls needs to be addressed, including by ending compulsory HIV testing, forced sterilization, and forced abortion that often target these communities.

In the 2011 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS, particularly, governments continued to acknowledge that women remain disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS and reaffirmed that gender equality, the empowerment of women and girls, elimination of gender‐based abuse and violence, and access to health care services, including sexual and reproductive health, are fundamental in reducing women and girls’ vulnerability to HIV.

The Unzip The Lips campaign believes that we want to live in a world where these commitments are realized, where programs, funds and resources are reaching key affected women and girls, ensuring that they can live in dignity and enjoy their human rights. We are worried and deeply concerned that issues of HIV, gender, women’s empowerment and women’s rights are watered down, if not lost, in new and emerging development agendas.

"Three zeroes" is a popular current mantra that defines the vision for a future related to
HIV and AIDS: Zero New Infections, Zero AIDS‐Related Deaths and Zero Discrimination. But the simple truth of the matter is that there is no getting to zero without women and girls. There is
no getting to zero if all that governments and development partners can offer are lukewarm to
zero funding and programme interventions for key affected women and girls.

Key affected women and girls have been delivering – as leaders and members of communities who, through the decades, have been at the forefront of HIV advocacy, activism, framework setting, as well as service delivery. It is time for the rest of the world to deliver for them.

The call given by Unzip The Lips campaign was endorsed by campaign supporters including:  Asia Pacific Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (APA), Asia Pacific Council of AIDS Service Organizations (APCASO), Asian‐Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW), Coalition of Asia Pacific Regional Networks on HIV/AIDS (7 Sisters), Coordination of Action Research on AIDS and Mobility (CARAM Asia), Positive Women Inc, Supporting Community Development Initiatives (SCDI), Women of Asia Pacific Plus (WAP+), Asia Pacific Network of People Living with HIV (APN+), among others.

Citizen News Service - CNS
May 2013