International Women’s Day: March 8

March 8 is International Women’s Day.  I just found this out, thanks to the very cool website, Bloggers Unite.  I’m glad I found out about it, because HIV/AIDS is as much a women’s issue as anything else.  Around the world, women are especially vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, for biological, social, cultural, political, and economic reasons.  HIV/AIDS is a crisis that often hits women and girls especially hard, especially in places where women are already at a societal disadvantage.

According to the website of the Global Coalition on Women and AIDS (a UNAIDS affiliate):

One half of all people living with HIV worldwide are women, and that proportion has remained stable since the late 1990s. More than three in four (77%) of adult women (15 years and older) with HIV globally live in Sub-Saharan Africa – that’s an estimated 12 million out of the 15.5 million women infected with HIV worldwide.

A recent UNAIDS report about women in Southern African countries where HIV/AIDS is extremely prevalent notes the following “key factors in driving the epidemic in southern Africa, and particularly among women and girls”:

  • The practice of age disparate and intergenerational sex
  • The biological vulnerability of young women
  • Economic inequality and poverty
  • Educational inequality
  • Gender-based violence

The same report also recommends a series of actions to address and remedy these risk factors.  You can read a summary of the report here.

I’ve written before about HIV/AIDS and women.  You can find some of these posts in this website’s “Gender” category.  A couple of the more in-depth posts are “Women Endangered by Patriarchal Traditions” and “Domestic Violence Spreads HIV in South Africa.”  In the first of those, I wrote:

Since the emergence of HIV/AIDS as a recognized disease, much of the developing world has seen a “feminization of the epidemic” — similar to another global problem, the “feminization of poverty.”  When women are marginalized, they are put at risk.  Powerlessness is a dangerous thing.  Often, it is deadly.

If you’ve ever wondered why women’s rights are often discussed right alongside HIV/AIDS: this is why.  When women and girls lack the education they need to manage their lives; when they lack legal, political, and economic rights; when they don’t have control over who does what to their bodies; when they are subject to traditions that pose threats to their safety; when they are not only deprived of the means to protect themselves, but also taught that they should not even try; when men and women alike are allowed to believe that women don’t matter — when these things happen, women are in danger.  Sometimes that danger takes the form of AIDS.

This is not how it should be.  Fortunately, many organizations and groups are working to change things.

I’m grateful that I found out about International Women’s Day, and I hope that this year’s activities bring needed  attention to women’s issues — including women’s health — around the world.  Here are some resources you might want to check out:

International Women’s Day

>> Official Website

>> The United Nations and IWD

>> Bloggers Unite: IWD Event

>> Honoring Women and Women-Related Organizations  – by CharityNavigator

Women’s Health and HIV/AIDS

>> CDC Fact Sheet: HIV/AIDS and Women in the United States

>> Global Coalition on Women and AIDS

>> UN Commission on the Status of Women opens with call for action to achieve universal access and gender equality

>> UNAIDS: Highlighting Sexual Violence on International Women’s Day

>> Article: Confronting Medical Issues for Women

>> Article: Toll of Malaria High for African Women

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~ by h.e.g. on March 7, 2009.

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