América Latina, comencemos a caminar – Latin America, start walking

Vicky Rojas Araya

By: Vicky Rojas Araya

This is a reflection piece from a young member of the YWCA of Valparaíso, Chile and is part of the World YWCA delegation at the Conference in Vienna.

Esta es una reflexión proveniente de una joven miembro de la YWCA de Valparaíso, Chile, que participe en la Conferencia Internacional de SIDA 2010.

La Conferencia Internacional de SIDA del 2010 sin duda dejará una indeleble marca en mi, no sólo por todo lo que he aprendido sobre diferentes aspectos involucrados en la prevención, tratamiento, cuidado y apoyo relacionado al tema del VIH/SIDA, sino también por encontrarme con “el mundo”, con la diversidad, con las culturas, con los lenguajes. Pareciera que una muestra aleatoria del planeta se encontrara todos los días entre  esas paredes, y sobre todo en la colorida Aldea Global (diversa y respetuosa de esa cualidad).

Sin embargo, entre tantas luces y colores, me preguntaba que pasaba con mi región, con Latinoamérica, y es que cuando te encuentras con el mundo, los procesos identitarios no sólo se encuentran con tu país, sino con aquellos que representan una cultura similar, con quienes compartimos una historia y hablamos la misma lengua.  Y era a esta región a la que buscaba, quería saber qué pasaba con la gente que la conformamos, pero aparecían solo goteras,  y ninguna articulada entre sí.

Ante este escenario llegue a la Sesión Regional de América Latina, fue un tremendo agrado entrar y escuchar mi idioma, me sentí como en casa, y a medida que las exposiciones se desarrollaban confirmaba que somos una sola región, a la vez que compartimos culturas e idiomas, compartimos también problemas.

Claramente, como dijo  uno de los relatores “somos demasiado pobres para sentarnos en las mesas que tienen poder de decisión mundial, pero demasiado ricos para recibir ayuda internacional”, lo que crea una sensación de injusticia, que se suma la sentencia mencionada por otra relatora,  respecto a que “somos la región más inequitativa del planeta”; y quienes estábamos presentes no lo sabemos por datos estadísticos, lo sabemos porque lo vemos cada día, y lo sentimos en nuestros pueblos. Todo esto sumado a la violencia de género, a la corrupción en manejos presupuestarios a niveles gubernamentales, a las políticas conservadoras en materia de salud sexual, y al estigma y discriminación que enfrentan los HSH, LGBT y trabajadores/as sexuales, hace que los derechos humanos de toda la población se vean afectados (no sólo de las PVVIH sino también de todos quienes vivimos en estas tierras).

Ante tal panorama, ¿qué es lo que se puede hacer?.  Los relatores expusieron diversos caminos, todos para mi gusto, necesarios y urgentes, como actuar a nivel legislativo y asegurar derechos sexuales y reproductivos en la población, protección legal a temáticas relacionadas al VIH/SIDA y Salud Sexual, asegurar una sanidad presupuestaria, trabajar respecto al estigma y discriminación, y abogar por la no criminalización de la transmisión del VIH/SIDA. Sin embargo, como miembro de una organización de la sociedad civil, llamo mi atención el llamado a la unión, a la formación de redes entre todos quienes trabajamos en pro de estos objetivos, ya que en la medida en que somos capaces de reunirnos, seremos capaces de visibilizar la urgencia de estos temas ante la región y el mundo.

Sin duda una meta que no quiere esperar….parece que nuestros pies quieren comenzar a caminar…

Comenzamos a caminar

“What a diverse group: Women!”

Hoda El Mankabady

By Hoda El Mankabady, from the YWCA of Egypt.  Hoda is one the young women of the YWCA delegation at the Conference in Vienna.

The 18th International AIDS Conference in Vienna, with the theme – “Women’s Rights Here – Women’s Rights Now,” held a session on Monday morning: “Our Bodies… Our Rights: Young Women’s Forum on SRHR”,

The objective of the session was to (i) create a safe space to speak openly about SRHR (ii) make the link between SRHR & HIV clear and (iii) create the opportunity to develop clear messages on the subject matter.

The session was quite interactive and engaged the whole audience. It started off with an inter-generational introduction and discussion around why SRHR is important to each one of the participants. It was moderated by our own Sophie Dilmitis, together with another colleague from the World AIDS Campaign.

Many SRHR issues came out of the dialogue, showing the diversity of both the participants as well as the issue. The creation of a safe space to talk about SRHR was one of the issues, young women’s reproductive care another, women with disabilities living with HIV and their access to services, women in prison living with HIV, etc…

After a rich discussion with the active audience, groups were divided by theme and were asked to develop 5 key messages to get across whenever possible and integrate them as an outcome document. The themes were (i) Safe Space (ii) Migrants (iii) Disabilities (iv) Choice (v) Lesbian women and (vi) Sexual Education. The groups were then asked to present their messages. Some of the strong messages were:

  • Honour my choices and give me options to make healthy decisions
  • Domestic violence does exist in lesbian households
  • Call for acceptable, accessible, adaptable, non biased and comprehensive sexual education
  • Disable women are sexual beings too
  • Safe spaces need to be created and initiated by young women for young women
  • SRHR policies need to be translated from paper to people
  • Migrant workers face double stigma

The session was an eye opener. We always talk about women and girls and their SRHR. But this was the first time I realised how diverse the women’s group is. And not just that, but every sub-group of the women’s group has different needs and wants, different messages and different calls for action. It is interesting to try and develop an approach to address all the needs of these groups.

I am looking forward to attending more of these interactive sessions as they not only create a safe space for discussing “taboo” issues, but also allow for inter-generational dialogue, as well as encourage young women to share their ideas and thoughts about issues they may have not had the chance to talk about before.

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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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