Adopt Women Centred HIV Initiatives To End AIDS Warns Women CSOs

CIVIL Society groups have raised concern over the high prevalence HIV/AIDS  as well as the ever growing number of new infections in women and girls who are disproportionately affected by HIV due to their societal roles like harmful cultural practices.

By Patricia Mashiri

Speaking in a webinar meeting , Jane  Kalweo, the Advisor United Nations AIDS (UNAIDS) Country Office Zimbabwe said there was need for women centered initiatives as they are always left behind.

Women continue to suffer lack of representation. We need more women centered initiatives. The responsible authorities should be held accountable for the gender disparities. Above all, there is need for more dialogue because there hasn’t be change in child, parent communication, education and SRHR issues,” Kalweo.

Tendai Westorhof, the National Director, Pan African Positive Women Coalition (PAPWC Zim) in her presentation highlighted that Women living with HIV face high levels of stigma and discrimination which make them shun the public and reduce public participation in regard to HIV implementation plans.

“Women living with HIV face high levels of stigma and discrimination hindering them from fully participating in structures at community and national level. Gender based violence and all other forms of violence against women and girls resulting in limited visibility of women in planning and implementation of HIV prevention programmes. Also women are unable to make choices and take action on matters of their own health and well-being,” Westerhof said.

She also stressed that young women who marry or enter into partnership early do not have the knowledge that enables them to protect themselves from HIV – for example they cannot negotiate when to have sex or to use condom therefore they need help.

Westerhof emphasized that there was need to eliminate all forms of violence against women so that everyone access universal health coverage including women and children.

“There is need to eliminate of all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls. It is also necessary to promote the value and importance of social protection for women and girls in achieving universal health coverage that comprises universal and equitable access to quality health services and ensure affordable and quality health delivery to people living with HIV, including women and children,” Westerhof said.

Conversations and engagements about Sexual Reproductive Health Rights need to be conducted as there is a lot misconception around the age of consent.

Statistics shows that Zimbabwe has 1.4 million people living with HIV (PLHIV), 1.2 million of who are between the ages of 15 and 64 are women girls. Women continue to bear disproportionate burden with prevalence levels of 16.7% compared to 10.5% among men. Women have an HIV incidence which is 3 times more at 0.67%, compared to 0.28% among men (15-49)

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