Women and AIDS: First Ladies and women leaders of Latin America meet
02 August 2008
The 5th Meeting of the Coalition of First Ladies and Women Leaders of Latin America on Women and AIDS was opened on 2 August 2008 by Mrs. Margarita Zavala, wife of the President of Mexico, First Lady of Mexico
The meeting brought together more than 150 participants, women leaders and activists from across Latin America, who discussed the challenges related to the feminization of the epidemic and possible HIV prevention strategies. They shared their different country experiences from Guatemala, Peru, Costa Rica, Argentina and Mexico.
Eight First Ladies of Latin America participated in the meeting including Mrs. Vivian Fernández de Torrijos, First Lady of Panamá and Mrs Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, First Lady of Honduras and President of the Coalition of First Ladies and Women Leaders of Latin America on Women and AIDS.
Women and AIDS
The “2008 report on the global AIDS epidemic” reported that increasing numbers of women are becoming infected with HIV in several countries in Latin America, including Argentina, Brazil, Peru, and Uruguay.
The effects of gender inequality and violence leave women and girls more at risk of exposure to HIV. Less access to education and economic opportunity results in women being more dependent on men in their relationships, and many who have no means of support must resort to bartering or selling sex to support themselves and their children.
Women and girls are also at increased risk for HIV infection biologically. In unprotected heterosexual intercourse women are twice as likely as men to acquire HIV from an infected partner. Economic and social dependence on men often limits women's power to refuse sex or to negotiate the use of condoms.
Coalition of First Ladies and Women Leaders of Latin America on Women and AIDS
In order to address the impact of HIV on women and girls in Latin America, 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 Coalition is also concerned at the gaps between the genders in terms of access to HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care services.
Members of the Latin America Coalition include women leaders from the ICW (International Community of Women Living with HIV). The Coalition is committed to working in partnership with women living with HIV and adopted the 2006 Panama Declaration "Nothing for us, without us”, as the basis of their regional action plan.
This Declaration was adopted at the 1st Latin America and Caribbean Congress of Women and Girls and sets out the commitment that the AIDS response must include people living with HIV working along side the most powerful forces uniting all nations and harmonizing their mutual concern and identities.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the Coalition approved a statement on Women and AIDS in which they commit to work closely with community leaders and continue to advocate for stopping the feminization of the epidemic and eradicating the social, cultural and economic constraints that affect women, girls and teenagers.
They also highlighted the importance of supporting people living with or at higher risk of HIV and to speak out against discrimination and violence towards women and girls.
Executive Director of UNAIDS Dr Peter Piot delivered a speech on the international response to the impact of the HIV epidemic on women and the Coalition made a personal tribute to him in recognition of his committed work on women and AIDS.