A United Nations (UN) panel endorsed a suggestion by Stephen Lewis, the UN special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, to create an agency that focuses solely on women. Lewis has said that HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects women and a well-funded, influential agency could help reduce the prevalence of the disease among women, Kaiser Daily Women’s Health Policy reports. “This is the most dramatic step forward in decades for women and the agency… It holds the prospect of transforming the lives of women, removing the worst poverty and oppression, [and] saving lives in the midst of the AIDS pandemic and other massive health problems”, said Lewis.
The UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) Executive Director Noeleen Heyzer supports the suggestion to merge three UN bodies, including UNIFEM, in order to form a single, powerful agency, according to UN News Service. “We strongly hope that Member States will show their commitment to a strengthened operational presence and make the necessary resources available,” said Heyzer.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is expected to call on the General Assembly to approve the proposal before his term expires at the end of this year.