Prevention and Protection Save Lives: Girls, Women, and HIV

HIV prevention and protection for women and girls cannot wait

The International Peace Institute, in collaboration with the Permanent Mission of Norway to the United Nations, Women Deliver, and Family Care International, hosted a policy forum entitled Prevention and Protection Save Lives: Girls, Women, and HIV on the sidelines of the 2011 UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on AIDS on 8 June. HIV is now recognized as the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age, the forum aimed to identify and strengthen the response to HIV and raise awareness about the interconnectedness of women’s health issue in relation to the broader development agenda.

UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador HRH Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway addressing young people at the Mali Youth Summit. 16 April 2011. Credit: UNAIDS\AFP H. KOUYATE

In this light the high level panel brought together Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director, UN Women; Purnima Mane, Deputy Executive Director (Programs), UNFPA; Carmen Barroso, Regional Director, IPPF/WHR; Jan Beagle Deputy Executive Director, Management and External Relations, UNAIDS; and Ms Lindsay Menard-Freeman programme officer at Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS to discuss lessons learned, current challenges, and the path forward.

“Young people are now the actors, mobilising for prevention, taking ownership of the AIDS response and shaping the attitudes of future leaders,” said UNAIDS International Goodwill Ambassadors Her Royal Highness the Crown Princess of Norway Mette-Marit who opened the forum. “We have to make sure that the next wave of leadership is equipped, engaged and sufficiently supported to maintain and develop the response.”

Also participating in the discussion was UNAIDS International Goodwill Ambassador Annie Lennox, a strong women’s rights activist: “We have the knowledge, we have the treatment,” said Ms Annie Lennox and urged world leaders gathering at the High Level Meeting on AIDS to take action on women and girls: “This is our moment: Don’t let us down.”

The Executive Director of UN Women called for leadership on this: “We know what has to be done and we know what works. And we can do better to stop this epidemic. With political will we can create the fiscal space to make women and girls a priority,” said Ms Bachelet.

The discussion, moderated by James Chau, Goodwill Ambassador, UNAIDS and a journalist with China CCTV, highlighted that young women in particular are vulnerable to HIV. As a result of a combination of biological and socio-cultural factors, nearly a quarter of all new global HIV infections are among young women aged 15-24.

We have the knowledge, we have the treatment.

This is our moment: Don’t let us down..”

Annie Lennox, UNAIDS International Goodwill Ambassador

Knowing your epidemic” <> in gender terms is critical. The human rights, including the sexual and reproductive rights of all women and girls – in particular women and girls living with HIV – must be protected and promoted in all HIV and global health programmes.”

However, progress has been made. More than 60 countries have shown their commitment to gender equality by implementing the UNAIDS Agenda for Women and Girls and HIV, engaging over 400 civil society organizations.

“It’s important to remember that young people are actors, and young people are asking for what they need,” said Ms Menard-Freeman. “Now that we are here [at the High Level Meeting on AIDS], we need the voices of young people to be heard.”

One of the critical examples raised as a model for a consolidated approach to women’s health was the United Nation’s Every Woman Every Child campaign. The campaign, launched during the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Summit, has so far seen a US$ 40 billion commitment by countries to improve the health of women and children. If implemented, it is estimated that the strategy could save up to 10 million lives of women and children by 2015.

The new UNAIDS Strategy 2011 – 2015: Getting to Zero has made advancing human rights and gender equality for the HIV response one of its three key strategic directions, and is committed to ensure that the rights of women and girls in the context of HIV.

UNITED NATIONS, New York — World leaders gathered in New York for the 2011 United Nations High Level Meeting on AIDS have launched a Global Plan that will make significant strides towards eliminating new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keeping their mothers alive. The plan focuses on reaching pregnant women living with HIV and their children.

Throughout the three-day event, UNFPA emphasized the special concerns and needs of women and young people living with HIV, and emphasized the fundamental link between sexual and reproductive health and HIV.

Addressing world leaders on behalf of the United Nations in a panel discussion on “Women, girls and HIV” on 9 June, UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin spoke of the need to sustain the current momentum on women, girls and HIV by increasing political support and funding, both at the global and the national levels. And he mentioned the need to change harmful gender norms and practices and to integrate the prevention of gender-based violence into HIV interventions.

Also on Thursday, a side event on “Young People in the AIDS Response” called for greater commitment to young people and their engagement for prevention of new infections and for a stronger focus on getting results through application of evidence.

Live Webcast: Interfaith Prayer Breakfast

On Friday UNFPA partnered with UNAIDS and the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance to host the Interfaith Prayer Breakfast as part of the side events of the high level meeting. The Breakfast will be attended by the Deputy Secretary General, Asha Rose Migiro, as well as UNFPA and UNAIDS Deputy Executive Directors Purnima Mane and Jan Beagle.

Leaders of religious and civil society and advocates from around the world spoke out about the progress made by faith-based organizations to stop the spread of HIV and provide physical and emotional support to those living with HIV.

After a short breakout session, each table at the breakfast shared one idea for how all sectors of society can work together to end stigma about AIDS. The breakfast closed with prayers invoked by representatives of different faiths.

Publications on condoms programming and prevention among youth launched

Condom programming, a critical element in accelerating progress for HIV prevention, was the subject of a breakfast discussion organized by UNFPA and the Permanent Mission of Denmark to the United Nations. During the breakfast, a major multi-year pledge from Denmark was announced, and a new publication was launched.

Ahead of the High Level Meeting, UNFPA together with partners launched the report Opportunity in Crisis , which presents, for the first time, new data on HIV prevalence in young people aged 15-24 years. The report highlights high risk behaviours while focusing on key gaps and opportunities for effective HIV prevention among youth. “As the report says, too many adolescent girls become pregnant before they are ready, and have children while they are still children themselves,” said Dr. Osotimehin. “This puts their own health and their children’s health at risk and limits their opportunities and potential.

Main events during the 2011 High Level Meeting on AIDS will be streamed live on the United Nations Webcast site.

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For details and complete coverage, including all related documents, visit the official site: 2011 High Level Meeting on AIDS.

UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on AIDS

Thirty years into the AIDS epidemic, and 10 years since the landmark UN General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS, the world has come together to review progress and chart the future course of the global AIDS response at the 2011 UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on AIDS from 8–10 June 2011 in New York. Member States are expected to adopt a new Declaration that will reaffirm current commitments and commit to actions to guide and sustain the global AIDS response.

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