Experts suggest integrating gender issues into HIV programmes

Wednesday, 2018-01-17 16:55:04
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Counselors at Hai Duong General Hospital (Hai Duong province) provide counseling for an HIV infected victim. (Credit: NDO)
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NDO – Experts have emphasised the importance of integrating gender-based issues in HIV response programmes in Vietnam in order to facilitate the country’s commitments to ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 and addressing gender inequalities.

Participants at a Hanoi seminar this morning argued that Vietnam has committed to eliminating AIDS by 2030 and has demonstrated its political leadership and commitments to participate in global efforts to address gender inequality and HIV.

However, according to a joint study published at the workshop by the Vietnam Administration of HIV/AIDS Control and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), gender equality promises have not been clearly shown in HIV response policies, programmes nor budgets at the present time.

The current HIV responsive plans have not fully addressed the diverse needs of women and girls affected by the epidemic, while there is a lack of involvement from civil society, especially groups representing women living with HIV, in the development and implementation of HIV-related policies.

Elisa Fernandez, Head of Office at the UN Women Vietnam, said that women living with HIV are facing challenges in accessing prevention, treatment and support services. Women, especially those who are most affected by the epidemic, remain largely out of decision-making and policy-building processes. The situation contributed to the increase in the number of HIV-positive women from 24% in 2007 to 33% in 2014 in Vietnam, Elisa Fernandez stated.

In order to achieve gender equality and empowerment for women and girls in the response to HIV, the UN official suggested improving access to reproductive and sexual health services and HIV services, facilitating the transformation of social norms and behaviours on gender inequities, and promoting leadership amongst women in the response to HIV.

Nobel laureate Francoise Barre-Sinoussi speaks at the seminar. (Credit: UN Women)

Professor Francoise Barre- Sinoussi, who was awarded the 2008 Nobel Prize for the co-discovery of HIV, stressed that the most important strategy and lessons learned after years of coping with HIV in many countries is to ensure the participation of women in all prevention and response levels and processes.

The female French virologist also urged for a stronger involvement of men and boys so that women and girls can protect themselves from infection, overcome stigmas, and have access to treatment and care.