Women leading the AIDS response in Latin America
28 March 2008
The Coalition of First Ladies and Women Leaders of Latin America on Women and AIDS held its IV meeting in the Dominican Republic on 27 and 28 March 2008. The meeting, supported by UNAIDS and UNFPA, brought First Ladies and women leaders from around the region together to discuss ways of moving the AIDS response forward. The newly created Caribbean Coalition on Women, Girls and AIDS also participated in the event bringing vital impetus in addressing the challenges faced by women and girls in the Caribbean.
UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director Deborah Landey stressed the importance of speaking on women and AIDS. She said, “You are here because you are ready to speak out and act on issues facing women. This takes courage. It is not always easy to talk about AIDS because it involves talking about issues many people prefer not to mention. So I congratulate you for being prepared to stand up and speak out.”
The Coalition was set up in 2006 under the leadership of the First Lady of Honduras, Mrs. Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, to promote political commitment and mobilization of regional and national resources to strengthen and enhance HIV prevention, treatment and care services and reduce the impact of the epidemic on women and girls.
The meeting in the Dominican Republic was hosted by the country’s First Lady Dr Margarita Cedeño de Fernández. The President of the Coalition and First Lady of Honduras Mrs Xiomara Castro de Zelaya also attended the meeting along with the First Ladies of Guatemala, Sandra Torres de Colom; Surinam, Liesbeth Anita María Venetiaan-Vanenburg and Panamá, Vivian Fernández de Torrijos; as well as representatives of México, Ecuador, Haití, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Chile.
The meeting took place under the theme "Stopping the feminization of the epidemic: Prevention and Care within Family and Community Context ". Sessions included; Women and HIV in the Dominican Republic; Living with HIV within the family and community context; and Cooperation for Development: Generating alliance for stopping the feminization of the epidemic and to obtaining universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.
A session was also dedicated to discussing the next steps for implementing the Action Platform in the run up to the International AIDS Conference, being held in Mexico in August 2008. The Action Platform is a strategy which was approved at the second meeting of the Coalition held in Buenos Aires in April 2007 which was designed to mitigate the impact of AIDS in the region, particularly focusing on actions to achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. The platform also aims to promote women rights in a supportive environment, free of stigma and discrimination. The session included an analysis of the Action Platform to assess progress and to identify weaknesses and opportunities for further action.
A project to implement a system of micro-credits for women living with HIV in the region was presented during the meeting which was an initiative, supported by the Nobel peace prize and UNAIDS Special Representative Mr. Mohamed Yunus. The project focuses on ways of empowering women to stand up to violence, protect themselves against HIV and achieve greater respect among their families and communities.
A study on gender violence and HIV in several countries in the region produced by UNFPA was also presented at the meeting.