ICW calls for better access to treatment, counselling and peer support services
The International Council of Women (ICW) living with HIV AIDS have spoken out on the need for greater access to treatment and services for women in the fight to end HIV.
With women making up over 50 percent of the people living with HIV AIDS, leaders from the ICW’s global branches have come together to outline the key issues for women living with HIV at AIDS 2014 conference. The barriers to treatment and the need for better education for young women on how to avoid transmission, were amongst the key issues.
Ugandan doctor Lydia Mungherera set the scene in a plenary session where she called for women living with HIV to be at the centre of the response, “there is nothing for us without us,” she said.
Mungherera said the face of the pandemic is a female face – and we need women to be central in the response to HIV AIDS.
The doctor who is herself living with HIV, called for an end to enforced sterilisations of women living with HIV, for better access to treatment, for greater involvement in sexual and reproductive health rights and for governments to put an end to the laws that see HIV transmission criminalised.
It was a theme continued at the No Woman Left Behind press conference in which speakers from ICW revealed the ICW strategic plan which recommends a number of changes to current health practices. Amongst the changes called for were: access to HIV positive peer mentors and counsellors, an end to discrimination and violence and an end to forced or coerced abortions and sterilisations of women living with HIV.
ICW US Jessica Whitbread says ‘We are really excited about this three-year strategic plan. We are very fierce women and we envision a world that ends gender oppression and creates a safe place for women living with HIV to access and know their full rights.”
Rebecca Matheson from Asia Pacific ICW said she would like to highlight the importance of one of the key asks: “and that is access to treatment and health services to create a communication pathway for women into the service. Lack of peer support can mean women drop out and that means a lack of follow up and lack of support for women newly diagnosed with HIV.”
Teresia Otieno spoke of the disproportionally high number of HIV positive women in her homeland of Kenya. “One of the main issues in Africa is the sexual reproductive rights of women, we have heard reports where women with HIV have been forced or coerced into sterilisation or long term methods of family planning and ICW says that is unacceptable and abuses the human rights of women. As a community of women with HIV, we are saying we have the right to be happy, to get married, to have as many children as we want. The other thing we have seen is a number of young women being left behind in the terms of services.”