Feature story

Panel discussion 3: Gender equality and AIDS

09 June 2008

The first panel discussion on the second day of the 2008 High-Level meeting on AIDS is on the topic of gender equality and AIDS.

This panel will be broadcast live via internet webcast at 14:00 GMT  


Globally, women comprised half of adults living with HIV in 2007 and in sub-Saharan Africa, 61% of people living with HIV are women.

A range of biological, cultural and economic factors make women vulnerable to HIV and disproportionately burden them with the epidemic’s impact. Vulnerability can start even before women become adults as many girls under the age of 18 experience early sexual initiation, unsafe sex, early marriage and widespread sexual exploitation and violence.

The widely-held beliefs, expectations, customs and practices within a society that define ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ attributes, behaviours and roles and responsibilities lead to gender inequality. This inequality often results in women and girls having less access to education, health services and income-earning opportunities than men and boys.

Women and girls also are the main providers of care and support to household members with AIDS.

Current situation

Government commitments in the 2001 Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and in the 2006 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS acknowledged that HIV services and programmes reaching women and girls need to be scaled up if the course of the epidemic is to be reversed.

However, much still needs to be done. For example, only 34% of women living with HIV are provided with antiretroviral treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission, far below the 80% target.

Women’s participation in decision-making helps make HIV services and programmes more sensitive to gender inequalities however opportunities are often limited and they are often absent from dialogues that shape global and national AIDS policies and programmes.

Some specific actions that may make a difference include: the importance of cross-sectoral national strategies that reach beyond health to include social and economic empowerment; prioritizing young women and girls’ access to HIV prevention and other sexual and reproductive health services; inclusion of HIV-positive women in the planning and design of AIDS policies and programmes.

Questions to be discussed:

  • How can countries better operationalize a multisectoral response to achieve universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support, and to empower women and girls?
  • What can be done to overcome the barriers to universal access to HIV prevention services faced by young women and girls?
  • What can be done to translate information into knowledge, and knowledge into behaviour change?
  • How can men and boys be involved in promoting knowledge and behaviour change?
  • How can governments, bilateral and multilateral organizations strengthen the resilience of and further engage women living with HIV and those on the front-line of care-giving in households so that they are successfully engaged as leaders in the response and key participants in formal decision-making processes?

The Chair of this discussion is Ms. Anna Marzec–Boguslawska, Head of the National AIDS Centre (Poland) and the panelists are H.E. Mr. Francisco Duque III, Minister of Health (Philippines); Ms. Rosa González (Honduras), LACASSO - ICASO3; Ms. Thoraya Obaid, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

The Chair’s summary of this discussion will be published after the event, please check back to access it.