Gender inequalities 'greatly impact rate women contract HIV'
By NOELLE NICOLLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE gender inequalities that women face are still a major challenge to eradicating HIV/AIDS related deaths, said gender experts at a symposium yesterday.
Audrey Ingram Roberts, a consultant at the Joint United Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), said adolescent girls do not have power to have safe sex.
She said they often have to resort to "seduction" as a means of negotiating condom use - an arrangement that does not create the necessary "shift in values" in male partners for them to support safe sexual activity.
She said women more often compromise their values, and become comfortable with the notion that "I am his main girl" or "I know him now."
Ms Roberts said women's rights are often reduced to a matter of "equality by numbers," or having equal representation of women and men from a numerical point of view.
She said that was the "lowest concept of equality" and virtually meaningless.
The irony of the world today, she said, is the fact that men and women in relationships display 19th century behaviour while communicating with 21st century technology.
She said the cell phone has become the quintessential symbol of that condition: a man buys a woman a cell phone so he can track her whereabouts at all times and monitor who she is in communication with.
Lynette Deveaux of the Women's Bureau said the dynamics surrounding cell phone use say a lot about the ideological shifts that are needed.
While some women are offended by the thought of a partner interrogating them over the use of their cell phone, she said many female adolescents are flattered by the thought, because they see jealousy as a symbol of love.
Ms Roberts said material relations that centre on the question of "What do you have?" or "What can you give me?" have replaced an ideological focus on the core beliefs of men and women about who they are and what roles they play.
She said the transformation that needs to take place to empower women and have them exercise their sexual and reproductive rights must be on an ideological level.
In the Caribbean, 48 per cent of persons living with HIV are women, according to UNAIDS. Women are 2.5 times more likely to be infected with HIV than young men.
"Challenges that prevent women and girls from accessing care, treatment and support include: gender violence and domestic violence; threats of abandonment; low levels of literacy; laws that prohibit sexually active adolescents and teenage girls from accessing care; lack of adolescent friendly health care services; stigma and discrimination; lack of support from other women; and ignoring the basic human rights of women and girls," said Sandra Smith, national programme officer at the UNAIDS Bahamas office.
The mandate of UNAIDS is to assist governments in the development and implementation of detailed action plans to fight AIDS. UNAIDS has developed its 2011-2015 strategy with the theme of "Getting to Zero". By 2015 the vision is to: "Get to zero new infections; get to zero AIDS related deaths; get to zero discrimination."
"One of the challenges to prevent this from happening is the gender inequalities that women face on a daily basis. Gender inequalities greatly impact the rate that women and girls contract HIV. Addressing these inequalities, the needs and rights of women and girls, is critical to achieving universal access and the Millennium Development Goals (MDG)," said Ms Smith.
Friday, April 01, 2011