HIV/AIDS activists and advocacy groups held a press conference yesterday to draw attention to the feminization of the global epidemic prior to a review of global AIDS policy by the United Nations at the end of the month. Speakers at Tuesday’s press conference emphasized “the global face of AIDS Ð which is increasingly women and girls,” according to Yolanda Richardson, President of the Centre for Development and Population Activities (CEDPA).
Speakers Pauline Muchina, Senior Women and AIDS Advocacy Officer of UNAIDS; Tendayi Westerhof, founder of Public Personalities Against AIDS Trust in Zimbabwe; and Inviolata Mwali Mmbwavi, CEO of National Empowerment Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Kenya, centered their comments on empowering women, reducing the stigma often attached to an HIV-positive status, and highlighting the connection between HIV infection and violence against women. Said Muchina, “The truth is that, in all regions of the world, women are getting infected with HIV not only because they lack information, but because they lack the social and economic power to protect themselves.”
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the identification of AIDS by the Centers for Disease Control. According to CEDPA, there are more than 17 million HIV-positive women across the globe, 77 percent of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa. In the United States, the number one cause of death for African-American women between the ages of 25 and 34 is AIDS, reports CEDPA.