We can make a change, says young woman

vblog by Natalia Cales

I spoke with Davia from Jamaica, a young woman attending AIDS 2008 who shared with me some of the problems women in Jamaica face. She hopes for change, that the conference will bring about change but also that young women can lead the change!

AIDS 2008: We must have condoms

vblog by Natalia Cales

I interviewed Tais from Brazil who shared with me her experiences from attending the XVII IAC in Mexico City. The most important lesson she learnt during the conference she says is “condoms, condoms, condoms!”

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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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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AIDS 2008: women speak

The XVII International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2008 ) will be held in Mexico City from August 3-8, 2008. With over 21,000 people expected to attend, AIDS 2008 is the largest and most important HIV and AIDS conference of the year. A few days before the conference opened, UNAIDS released a new report that shows HIV infection rates are decreasing. Welcome news, but the situation is still grim for women and girls who remain disproportionately vulnerable to HIV infection. In a statement in response to the report, the World YWCA welcomed the call for governments to scale-up gender equality and women’s empowerment as part of their HIV and AIDS response.

The World YWCA has sent a delegation to AIDS 2008 to advocate for women and girls. Several of the women attending the conference will contribute to this blog. Keep checking back to read personal reflections to the events, debates and outcomes of AIDS 2008.

HIV in Australia: taking personal action

Susan Brennan, World YWCA President

Contributor: Susan Brennan

The power of the Nairobi 2007 Call to Action lies in its call to individual and collective action. We are all personally committed to challenge ourselves and others to respond to HIV and AIDS.It’s up to every one of us to listen, to learn, to advocate and to make change happen every single dayat home, at work and in our communities.

For me, this has meant forging a special friendship with an HIV positive teenager who challenges stereotypes about HIV on a daily basis. She has faced discrimination from schools and from doctors demonstrating how hidden HIV is in our community. She made me realise HIV is an issue for women in Australia, too. From her, I learnt to stop asking how someone “got HIV”. Now, whenever I speak about the priorities of the YWCA, I talk about the vulnerability of young women to HIV and the influence young women have in halting its spread.

I have supported the activities of the leading organisation for HIV-positive women in Australia by attending their picnics in public parks and a powerful photographic exhibition by positive women. The young men and women in my family now expect birthday gifts such as t-shirts, stationery and other literature raising awareness of HIV. My local YWCA partnered with a condom manufacturer to distribute a new brand of condoms innovatively marketed to women, which I distribute to my friends and familyeven to my fellow World YWCA Board members.

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Reducing HIV vulnerability through education for girls

Contributor: Constance Shumba

After signing the Nairobi 2007 Call to Action, I started a Girls’ Educational project in Koboko, Uganda. The project assists talented but disadvantaged young girls to go to secondary school by providing them with school fees and pocket money. As a young woman I believe strongly that one of the ways to reduce girls vulnerability to HIV is to provide them with opportunities for education.
Feminisation of HIV has created a need to challenge harmful cultural beliefs such as the idea that girls should not be educated. One of the girls in the project came from a home where the father did not believe in education. She now displays so much potential and has a bright future ahead of her. With access to education her life has changed but there are many girls in Africa living her past life.
In my professional life as a public health specialist I want to seek knowledge and ways of improving the health system, including improved financing, so that young women can have access to a wide range of sexual and reproductive health services. Change begins with every one of us and we need to address the socio-economic issues that enable disease and find ways to promote health holistically. We must be resilient in taking action until we get the social change we want.

Any response to HIV that recognises, respects and nurtures the potential of women and girls must be encouraged as part of protecting and promoting the human rights of women and girls. Since signing the Nairobi 2007 Call to Action, ensuring women and girls worldwide have access to education and economic security has become an important part of my life.

Source: Common Concern July 2008