HIV wears a woman’s face 

Source: HIV wears a woman’s face | The Herald 18 NOV, 2019

HIV wears a woman’s face

Nyasha Phanisa Sithole Correspondent
In 2001, at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), the former and late UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said “HIV has the face of a woman”, and for decades even up to date it still has that face!

The more the agenda is moved, the more adolescent girls, young women (AGYW) and women remain left behind with rates of HIV acquisition amounting to 390 000 and 75 percent of these from Sub-Saharan Africa (Envision for girls UNICEF Data hub).

The HIV response for women and girls in our diversity must be rooted in an integrated approach to education, gender equity, poverty eradication and economic empowerment as these all are central to whether a woman or girl will have health literacy, ability to exercise choice, capacity to refuse unwanted sex, remove the need to exchange sex “unwanted” sex for money or goods, and challenge harmful cultural norms and practices, including child marriages and female genital mutilation.

HIV and adolescent girls and young women need to be well articulated in the UHC Agenda.

What girls want and what women want as commitments to the HIV prevention Agenda in ICPD is a renewed commitment towards:

l Advance safety, security, and freedom from violence, including ending stigma, discrimination, and sexual harassment, for young women and girls in all our  diversity.

There must be zero tolerance for any form of sexual harassment or bullying for all embedded into both organisational policy and culture.

l Ensure full access to information and education, including comprehensive sexuality education, including provision of menstrual health and hygiene services, girls and women friendly quality, comprehensive healthcare services.

Comprehensive sexuality education is an intervention that promotes self-awareness: AGYW seek self- reassurance in the wrong places that puts them in harm’s  way.

l Support commitments that focus laws and policies that promote our access to sexual and reproductive health and rights without coercion, age restrictions or requirements to be accompanied by male guardians.

In this day and age, we cannot continue to tolerate the moralisation and criminalisation of our sexuality! This has to come to an end!

l Strengthened investment in championing our leadership and equity so that girls and young women in all our diversity are catalysts for and meaningful partners in positive change.

We do not need more exposure we need more resources.

The agenda is about us, but resources are not for us and that needs to  change.

The retraction of donors in the HIV response is real but where is the mobilisation of domestic funding in this equation?

l A research agenda that is driven and led by girls and women taking account of the unique bio-medical and social context of women and girls lives.

Inclusion and meaningful engagement in research will ensure services that embrace, respect, and respond to the priorities, life-long needs, choices, and rights of adolescent girls and women in our   diversity.

We are commemorating ICPD+25, 2020 we will be Beijing+25, we are a few months into 2020 and the targets under the 2016 Political Declaration need to be met.

In 2020, it will be five years into the SDGs.

These watershed moments for sexual and reproductive health, human rights, and gender equality are vital to reflect on as we look to accelerating the Sustainable Development Goals and meeting vital targets set for the HIV response.

In my language we say “rume rimwe harikombe churu” meaning that not one man can be able to deal with a situation single-handedly.

We need to all have a collective renewed commitment, energy, and passion towards HIV and SRHR of and for girls and women.

l Nyasha Phanisa Sithole made these remarks at the Global HIV Prevention Coalition Ministerial meeting at the ICPD25 Summit in Nairobi, Kenya, on November 11 and the Concurrent session on HIV/SRHR and young women on November 12, 2019

l She made the remarks on behalf of adolescent girls, young women and women from 28 Global HIV Prevention Coalition Countries and Participants of the Adolescent Girls and Young Women Technical Meeting.