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CYWAG WGNRR Joint Statement in Advanced of the HLM Meeting on Ending AIDSStatements

tag AIDS,Equality,HIV,Reproductive Health,Women,Youth

Released date: 09-Jun-2016

In light of the 2016 High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS, the ICW Chapter for Young Women, Adolescents, and Girls (CYWAG) and the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR) emphasize the need to place young women and girls living with HIV at the center of all strategies and responses to ending the epidemic. In particular, the full human rights of young women and girls living with HIV must be realized, including their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR)!

As we know, gender inequality continues to play a huge role in increasing young women and girls’ vulnerability to HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. The current context of HIV clearly illustrates how the virus disproportionately affects young women and girls, where:

  • Every minute a young woman is infected with HIV;1
  • Young women and girls make up 64% of all new infections among young people;2
  • HIV is the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age;3
  • Less than 30% of young women and girls around the globe have correct and comprehensive knowledge on HIV.4

SRHR are central in promoting gender equality, ensuring comprehensive HIV treatment, and preventing new HIV infections; all key factors in achieving social justice, women’s and girls’ empowerment, and sustainable development. As such, any approach intended to fast-track the HIV and AIDS response and end related stigma and discrimination must ensure SRHR for all.

When a holistic approach to SRHR is implemented, including the provision of comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) and youth-friendly services, young people are equipped with the tools and information they need to exercise meaningful and informed decision-making power in relation to their sexual and reproductive health, thereby enabling the attainment of a whole range of other rights. Yet because of ongoing gender inequality as well as socio-cultural norms and taboos, young women and girls worldwide face considerable challenges in exercising their SRHR, particularly if they are living with HIV.

When trying to access sexual and reproductive health information and services, young women and girls living with HIV are often multiply marginalized, as a result of their age, gender, economic situation, and HIV status. As such, they are often at high risk of experiencing violations of their sexual and reproductive rights,5 such as discriminatory and humiliating treatment; breaches of consent and confidentiality; physical and emotional violence and abuse; and denial of services.6 In some cases, young women and girls living with HIV are subjected to forced or coerced sterilization and abortion7, amounting to cruel and inhumane treatment and torture, as recognized by international and regional human rights bodies.8

When the SRHR of young women and girls is unmet, their ability to manage their HIV care and overall health outcomes is impeded, thus hindering their wellbeing, as well as efforts to strengthen HIV prevention and eradicate related stigma and discrimination. As importantly, the neglect and denial of the SRHR of young women and girls living with HIV is tantamount to violating their fundamental human rights and freedoms.9 For as affirmed by States worldwide through the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the human rights of women include the right for all women to “have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.”

With this in mind, when implementing HIV/AIDS related strategies and in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we urge governments to:

  • Reaffirm the right of young women and girls living with HIV to choose who to love and be intimate with, as well as to choose if and when to be sexually active, free from coercion, discrimination and violence;
  • Meaningfully integrate HIV and SRHR programming and services, to ensure the health, rights and wellbeing of all young women and girls in all their diversity;
  • Facilitate universal access to CSE which is gender-sensitive, evidence and rights-based, and provided via a holistic and positive approach;
  • Ensure universal access to youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services, including a full range of voluntary and high-quality contraceptives, as well as access to safe, legal and affordable abortion services, free of marital and parental consent requirements;
  • Take all measures to end the deplorable practice of subjecting women living with HIV to forced, coerced or uninformed sterilization;
  • Ensure universal access to antiretroviral therapy, of central importance in the prevention of mother to child HIV transmission and transmission between sexual partners;
  • Fully involve all key affected populations, including adolescent girls and young women living with HIV, in any and all approaches intended to fast-track HIV and AIDS responses and end related stigma and discrimination.

In light of this High-Level Meeting, we call upon governments and the international community to recognize the agency of young women living with HIV over all aspects of our bodies and our lives, and ensure our central involvement and leadership in all policies that affect our communities.

Our Bodies, Our Sexual and Reproductive Rights!

 

Reference
  1. UNAIDS (2012), Every minute, a young woman is newly infected with HIV.
  2. UNFPA (2012), From Childhood to Womanhood: Meeting the Sexual and Reproductive Health Needs of Adolescent Girls.
  3. World Health Organization (2013), Women’s health.
  4. UNAIDS (2012), Every minute, a young woman is newly infected with HIV.
  5. Ibid.
  6. UNDP et al (2013), Protecting the Rights of Key HIV-Affected Women and Girls in Healthcare Settings: A Legal Scan.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, A/HRC/22/53, paras. 46-48.
  9. 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, para. 96.

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CYWAG WGNRR Advanced of the HLM Meeting on Ending AIDS Statement A4 CYWAG WGNRR Advanced of the HLM Meeting on Ending AIDS Statement A4 (1520 KB)

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