|New Report: Show Us the Money|
|Monday, 05 March 2007|
New Coalition of Women's Groups Critiques Funding Policies of U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Global Fund, UNAIDS, Others
NEW YORK, March 6-Women Won't Wait, a new international coalition of women's groups launched its campaign to end HIV and violence against women with a new report released today: "Show Us the Money: Is Violence Against Women on the HIV&AIDS Funding Agenda?"
Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and one of the speakers at the launch of the campaign, said that the twin epidemics of HIV and AIDS and violence against women cannot be disentangled.
"It is vital that the policies, programs and funding streams of national governments and international agencies transparently address the intersection of HIV and AIDS and violence against women," Robinson said. "At the same time, civil society must hold both governments and agencies accountable to promoting human rights and the self-determination of women, as this coalition seeks to do."Â Â
The new study finds that leaders in the fight against AIDS have failed to consistently and adequately address the relationship between violence against women and HIV. Recent findings from a 10-country study conducted by the World Health Organization confirmed that violence against women is widespread, and that between 13 percent and 61 percent of women in the countries surveyed had experienced sexual violence and coercion at the hands of husbands and intimate partners. Moreover, HIV-positive women face high levels of violence. For example, though many women contract HIV from their husbands, within marriage, they are often blamed for infections when their positive status becomes known. Violence is, therefore, a cause and a consequence of the rapid spread of HIV among women, who now represent at least half of those infected worldwide and more than 60 percent of those infected in sub-Saharan Africa.
The report evaluates the funding streams, policies, and patterns of the major international agencies engaged in responding to the global AIDS epidemic, including the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM); the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR); the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID); the World Bank; and UNAIDS (The Joint U.N. Programme on HIV/AIDS).
The report's author, Susana Fried, said that while funding for HIV and AIDS programs has increased dramatically in the past five years, none of the agencies had successfully integrated efforts to address violence against women into their HIV programs. Meanwhile, programs to promote women's rights and to meet the basic reproductive and sexual health needs of women have been dwindling rapidly.
"For all of the agencies we examine, the scant resources for gender-based violence efforts are largely separate from, rather than integral to, programs to prevent and treat HIV and AIDS," Fried said.
Some experts interviewed for the report agreed with this conclusion. According to Mark Blackden, Regional Gender Coordinator/Lead Specialist for Africa at the World Bank, "Even among those who are on the frontlines of tackling AIDS in the worst-hit region of the world, gender is an afterthought."
The study is particularly critical of the United States' PEPFAR, which emphasizes the ABC approach (Abstinence, Be faithful, appropriate use of Condoms) but fails to implement this strategy effectively and also fails to recognize that in certain countries where HIV is prevalent, faithfully married women are the most at risk.
"The U.S. claims that it is promoting a â€˜comprehensive' approach to HIV prevention," said Jodi Jacobson, Executive Director of the Center for Health and Gender Equity, the acting U.S. Secretariat for the Women Won't Wait campaign. "But programs on the ground are anything but comprehensive. Instead, they promote â€˜abstinence-only-until-marriage' even in settings where the majority of women are being infected within marriage, and often fail to teach safer sex practices at all, even to sexually active older adolescents and married persons in their 20s and 30s at immediate risk of infection. To be comprehensive, strategies for abstinence, behavior change and safer sex practices have to be taught simultaneously to all individuals at risk."
"Women and girls of Africa are pawns within the ideological battle underway in the United States," said Lori Michau of the Uganda-based women's rights group Raising Voices. "We must demand that universal principles of human rights, scientific evidence, and common humanity guide the formation and implementation of U.S. government policy-not political and religious ideology."
Khuat Thu Hong, co-director of the Institute for Social Development Studies in Hanoi, added that in Vietnam, where sex work is legal, "Women are now more likely to contract HIV from their partners than through prostitution or injecting drug use."
The study is the first in a series of initiatives to be undertaken by the campaign to monitor the funding, policies, and programs of international agencies and national governments, and to push for the creation of specific, measurable, and transparent means to integrate the problem of violence against women into global HIV/AIDS programming.
To download a copy of the Executive Summary, visit www.womenwontwait.org
Women Won't Wait is an international coalition of organizations and networks from the global South and North working to promote women's health and human rights in the struggle to comprehensively address HIV and AIDS and end all forms of violence against women and girls. The coalition members are: Action Aid; African Women's Development and Communications Network (FEMNET); Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID); Center for Women's Global Leadership (CWGL); Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE); FundaciÃ³n para Estudio e InvestigaciÃ³n de la Mujer (FEIM); GESTOS-Soropositividade, ComunicaÃ§Ã£o & GÃªnero; International Community of Women Living with HIV&AIDS Southern Africa (ICW-Southern Africa); International Women's AIDS Caucus; International Women's Health Coalition (IWHC); Latin American and Caribbean Women's Health Network; Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA); Program on International Health and Human Rights, Harvard School of Public Health; SANGRAM; United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM); VAMP; and Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA).
For more information about the campaign please contact:
Action Aid International
2nd Floor, Rosebank Arena 3
Center for Health and Gender Equity
6930 Carroll Avenue, Suite 910