March 08, 2006
To mark its commitment to ending HIV/AIDS and to improving the lives of women worldwide, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) is supporting a declaration demanding increased access to HIV/AIDS health services for women and the development of new preventive technologies to stem the pandemic. Initiated by the International Women’s Health Coalition and sponsored by women’s organizations from 28 countries, "With Women Worldwide: A Compact to End HIV/AIDS" calls for the recognition and protection of women’s sexual and reproductive rights in HIV/AIDS policy, and additional programming and resource allocation to establish successful AIDS prevention, treatment and care strategies.
International Women's Day, March 8, celebrates the accomplishments and progress of women, while shedding light on the need for further advancements in gender equality. Since the international community first dedicated International Women's Day in the early 1900s, women have made tremendous strides in improving their decision-making role in society as well as working and living conditions. Yet the United Nations estimates that women between the ages of 15 and 49 years comprise nearly half of the 40.3 million people living with HIV globally. Poverty, economic dependence, and lack of sexual power fuel the infection rate among women in resource-poor nations.
The two-page compact advocates for girls' and women's empowerment to be placed at the center of a comprehensive response to HIV/AIDS. Expanded sexual and reproductive education, testing, counseling and services; policies to fight discrimination and sexual violence, and the development and dissemination of women's contraception, microbicides, and a preventive AIDS vaccine are key to bettering the lives of all women.
Microbicides and vaccines hold the promise of being powerful health and equity tools for women worldwide. “The traditional prevention vehicles, indispensable though they are, need a tremendous shot in the arm, and a vaccine or microbicide may be just that,” said Stephen Lewis, Special Envoy to the United Nations (UN) for HIV/AIDS in Africa.