Action Alert: Empowering Women & Girls Against HIV/AIDS

By Christine Cupaiuolo — December 2, 2008

The International Women’s Health Coalition is encouraging health activists to tell Michel Sidibé, the soon-to-be executive director of United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), what needs to be done to empower women and girls against HIV/AIDS.

The IWHC action alert includes the sample letter below, or you can write your own letter. Send correspondence to

Dear Mr. Sidibé,

As HIV infection rates among young people and women rise, we look to UNAIDS leadership to recognize gender inequality as a driver of the epidemic. That means making sexual and reproductive rights and health central to a comprehensive response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

To be effective, you should prioritize: the hiring of staff, consultants and advisors with expertise in women’s and young people’s health and rights; clear objectives for achieving gender equality; open, transparent interactions with a broad range of civil society constituencies, including women living with HIV/AIDS and women’s organizations; and the implementation of a comprehensive approach to prevention, treatment, and care for women and girls.

I care about women and girls because _______________. With lives at risk throughout the world, I hope you will empower them in the face of the pandemic.


Your name

2 responses to “Action Alert: Empowering Women & Girls Against HIV/AIDS”

  1. AIDS: Dark in Life

    -Mohammad Khairul Alam-

    -Executive Director-

    -Rainbow Nari O Shishu Kallyan Foundation-

    -24/3 M. C. Roy Lane-

    -Dhaka-1211, Bangladesh-



    -Tell: 880-2-8628908-

    -Mobile: 88-01711344997-

    The Asian HIV/AIDS epidemic is highly dynamic. Though, in the early 1980s when the HIV/AIDS epidemic was becoming significant in the Western Hemisphere and Africa, only a few cases of HIV infection were reported in Asia. The risky behaviour and vulnerability, which promote, fuel and facilitate the rapid transmission of HIV, are present in virtually all countries of the Asian region. Thus, the potential for its further spread is significant. Based on evidence from various causes, behaviours that produce the highest risk of infection in this region are unprotected sex (both heterosexual and homosexual) and needle sharing among intravenous drug users (IDUs). However, the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Asia took a new turn in the 1990s. It is spreading faster in parts of Asia than in other regions of the world. Some have predicted that the magnitude of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in this region in the twenty-first century could be much worse.

    Trafficking in young girls, children and women is a matter of great concern all over the world. In South Asia, cross-border trafficking, sourcing, transit to destination is a big problem. Even more prevalent is the movement of persons within the countries for exploitation in various forms. There are no definite figures about the number of victims.

    Trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation is the most virulent form in South Asia. Internal displacement due to conflict in some of these countries, poverty and lack of employment opportunities, increase the vulnerabilities to being trafficked.

    AIDS researcher Mr. Anirudha Alam said, “Trafficking & HIV/AIDS is interrelated, especially women and girls are trafficking for use of sexual industry. Most of trafficking girls would face several physical & sexual abuses. When a girl or women newly enrolls a sex industry, she tries to safe herself heard & soul, but most of the time they couldn’t free her.”

    Though this data is not enough to certify the fact, still South Asia is home to one of the largest concentrations of people living with HIV. Female sex workers (FSWs) – as a group – are an important driver of the epidemic. As has been shown in a very recent research involving repatriated FSWs in Nepal, many of the FSWs who have been trafficked are at a significantly higher risk than “average” women of contracting HIV. The Rainbow Nari O Shishu Kallyan Foundation conducted a survey that focuses on the attitude, behavior and practice of FSWs in Goalondo Brothel, this study points out that almost 53% of sex workers enter the profession before the age of 20 years, and 30% enter between 20 to 25 years of age, and some of them have been entangled through instigation of the traffickers.

    The spread of HIV/AIDS in Asia is expected to accelerate if Governments fail to act with a sense of urgency, and if preventive action is taken too little or too late. In this regard, the Monitoring the AIDS Pandemic Study has warned that the recent increase in HIV prevalence in specific locations in Asia should be regarded as a serious warning of more widespread epidemics. It is also significant to recognize that HIV/AIDS cases are often underreported. Asia is lacking in providing a comprehensive system of complete range of voluntary counseling with testing (VCT) services. However, governments and some NGOs have developed some VCT centers in several regoin in their countries. Though insufficient in number, the initiative is praiseworthy.

    The risk factors for HIV/AIDS infection is at an upsetting level in Bangladesh. Being a low prevalence country, containing the epidemic in the early stage is very essential. The Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) services for HIV is now acknowledged within the international arena as an efficacious and pivotal strategy for both HIV/AIDS prevention and care. The need for VCT is increasingly compelling as HIV infection rates continue to rise, and many countries recognised the need for their populations to know their sero-status as an important prevention and intervention tool. However, access to VCT services in Bangladesh like many developing countries is limited. Many people are still very reluctant to be tested for HIV. This reluctance is the result of barriers to VCT, which are: stigma, gender inequalities and lack of perceived benefit.

    The consequences of HIV/AIDS can be far-reaching for young people. Not only does HIV disease have terrible consequences for the individual, causing serious illness and eventual death, it has the potential to trigger negative social reactions. Across the world, people with HIV/AIDS routinely experience discrimination, stigmatization and ostracization.

    References: CARE, World Bank, UNAIDS.

  2. I fully concur with you sir. HIV/AIDS affects women and men diffrently. Due to their biological, socio-cultural and economic circumstances including gender based violence, girls and women are more vulnerable to the HIV infection than men and boys.

    How then can governments especially in developing countries rescue the women from such practices or vulnerability?

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