UNITED NATIONS, New York — HIV is the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age worldwide. For this to change, the global HIV response must fully recognize the significant role that gender inequality plays in increasing women and girls’ vulnerability to HIV.
At a high-level consultation, jointly organized by UNAIDS, UNFPA and UN Women, influential experts, leaders and advocates came together to discuss how sexual and reproductive health, and the rights of women and girls living with HIV can be enhanced and protected.
The event which took place on 24 February, was co-hosted by Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michelle Bachelet, UN Women’s Executive Director, and UNFPA’s Executive Director, Babatunde Osotimehin.
Concerns were expressed about the reported violations of the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls living with HIV, which impact on their desire to have children, as well as their access to prevention, treatment, care and support. Participants described the experience of some young women living with HIV who face stigma and discrimination when accessing HIV and sexual and reproductive health services. Examples were shared of HIV positive women who were advised not to engage in sexual relationships and scolded when seeking health care when pregnant, which presented a barrier to them accessing prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission and safe delivery services.
Participants identified strategic opportunities to protect and promote sexual and reproductive health and rights, including through improved and sustained investment in women and girls living with HIV. There was consensus that a gender-sensitive AIDS response can help countries move towards universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services and the Millennium Development Goals. This approach is that recommended by UNAIDS and in line with the UNAIDS Agenda for Women and Girls, and the UNAIDS Strategy 2011-2015.
Read the full story from UNAIDS