AIDS 2008: Young Women on the move

Contributor: Natalia Cales

Since the opening ceremony of the XVII International AIDS Conference on August 3, over 25,000 people have traveled from around the world in response to the call for Universal Action Now! Many delegates attending have been infected and affected by HIV and AIDS, while others really just want to make a difference and contribute to the response to this pandemic. Numerous influential global leaders are also in attendance addressing many issues as they relate to treatment, education, prevention, awareness, funding, etc.

As I walk around the Mexico City Banamex Center and the Global Village, I am overwhelmed with the number of sessions, activities, exhibitors and press conferences focusing on the epidemic among women and girls. It is very evident that many have recognized the need to address this universal problem, but are there any solutions in the near future? While attending several sessions, the overall goal has been to have more young women at the planning and decision-making table to make these changes a reality. As a young woman, I think this is a great start to meeting our needs.

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AIDS 2008: the women and girls march

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, World YWCA General Secretary and Susan Brennan, World YWCA President at the 'AIDS 2008 Women and Girls' march in Mexico. August 4

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, World YWCA General Secretary and Susan Brennan, World YWCA President at the ‘AIDS 2008 Women and Girls’ march in Mexico. August5

World YWCA delegation march for women and girls at the AIDS 2008 march on August 4

World YWCA delegation march for women and girls at the AIDS 2008 march. Mexico City, August 5 2008

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, World YWCA General Secretary and Susan Brennan, World YWCA President at the 'AIDS 2008 Women and Girls' march in Mexico. August 4

Delegates to the XVII International AIDS Conference participate in a march to raise awareness of the gap between international commitments to ending the AIDS epidemic and the reality women and girls face in the context of HIV and AIDS. Mexico City, August 5, 2008

If I was in charge

Natalia Cales, YWCA USA

Natalia Cales, YWCA USA

Contributor: Natalia Cales

As the XVII International AIDS Conference (IAC) begins in Mexico City on August 3-8, thousands from around the world will be attending this monumental event. Since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic more than 25 years ago, millions of people have been infected and affected. Today, the face of HIV is among young people, especially young women; throughout the world, young women are being infected with HIV.

As a young woman preparing to attend the IAC, I am looking forward to learning about solutions to this devastating issue. I am sure there will be many presenters to listen to and numerous workshops to attend. But, when the conference is over and everyone has returned home, will there be any “effective solutions” to conquering the HIV epidemic among us? Some may say that abstinence is the best solution, or increasing awareness and prevention strategies is more effective.

In my opinion, we need to examine why more females, who are heterosexual and committed to their partners, end up at the top of the list. Why have we become so vulnerable to HIV? Are we putting ourselves at risk in the “name of Love”? Is it the need or want for money that forces us to put ourselves at risk? Are we not aware of its impact or do we believe it “really can’t happen to us”? If you are living positively, does having “your voice heard” really matter? Or, are there adequate comprehensive prevention programs available to meet the needs of young women?

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