Issue Papers and Statements
High Level Political Forum 2016: Ensuring that NO Woman or Girls Living with HIV is Left BehindStatements
Released date: 26-Aug-2016
The first ever High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) took place in New York City July 11–20, 2016. The theme was ‘Ensuring That No One is Left Behind,’ focusing on the Sustainable Development Goals, including implementation, partnerships, technology, and poverty (see the link to the program here).
Session 6: Ensuring that no one is left behind – Creating peaceful and more inclusive societies and empowering women and girls, aimed to address the needs of women and girls via the 11 SDG goals that contain gender focused indicators. Session 6 can be viewed here.
The HLPF included the first global SDG reporting process, called Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs), in which countries who volunteered to participate in this year’s review shared SDG experiences and good practices.
The United Nations Secretary General created flexible guidelines for the VNRs, and the review process requires a written report. This year, 22 governments volunteered for national reviews of their progress in implementing the SDGs. Since implementation processes of the 2030 Agenda started only very recently for most countries, they were not expected to report on the review of 2030 Agenda and SDGs, but instead could focus on any activities or implementation at the country level. Country reports can be viewed here.
In terms of follow-up to the VNRs, some countries feel that there should be no follow-up to the reviews, because they are voluntary. The Secretary-General recommends that in future HLPFs, detailed recommendations for countries that presented a VNR could be included in the outcome document, and “could be used by countries having presented at the HLPF as a source of information, guidance, or support for the mobilization of resources, including for capacity building.”1
Key Points from the SDG Progress Report
The HLPF outcome document; the 2016 SDG Progress Report, draws conclusions “through examples of disaggregated data that pinpoint where specific population groups are lagging behind.”2 However, disaggregated data about women generally, and regarding women living with HIV specifically, does not often exist.
- The report broadly acknowledges, “Gender equality remains a persistent challenge for countries worldwide and the lack of such equality is a major obstacle to sustainable development.” But,
- The report fails to recognize lack of gender equality as a primary obstacle to sustainable development.
- It briefly mentions sexual violence against women and girls as one barrier to achieving the SDGs: “Survey data from 31 low-and middle-income countries suggest that the proportion of women aged between 18 and 29 who experienced sexual violence for the first time before the age of 18 varies widely, ranging from zero to 16 per cent.” However,
- Women and girls living with HIV know from our diverse experiences that these percentages are, in reality, substantially higher.
- The report remarks on inequalities in employment for women and girls as a barrier to sustainable development. But,
- It makes no mention of overwhelming structural inequities women and girls face; for example, it mentions nothing about the heavier poverty burden women and girls bear worldwide.
In its most critical oversight, the report does not mention any links between women and girls and HIV, nor does it cite women and girls living with HIV as an important population that must be engaged in order to achieve the SDGs.
HLPF: A Soft Commitment to Women Living with HIV
Implementation of the SDGs and participation in the HLPF by countries is completely voluntary. In order to encourage countries to voluntarily report on their progress and to improve the value of the HLPF as a monitoring body, we must demand accountability, build political will, and provide technical support. The potential of the HLPF as a monitoring body will only be realized if there are strong monitoring and engagement processes at the country level.
Evidence continues to point to the fact that women and girls living with HIV are already being left behind in the SDG and HLPF processes. ICW calls on governments and other stakeholders to:
- Hold national level SDG forums before the global SDG HLPFs, so that country-level implementation and progress can be closely monitored and followed by those that know it best, and development at the country level can be viewed holistically;
- Make the HLPF an accessible, learning space for all stakeholders;
- Undertake the global VNR process at the next SDG HLPF;
- Disaggregate data, highlighting the enormous barriers to sustainable development women and girls living with HIV face globally;
- Implement the SDGs at the national level, ensuring that women living with HIV, who are main stakeholders, have a seat at the table and a substantive role in the process;
- Recognize that gender equality issues must be consistently & concretely addressed in order to achieve the SDGs by 2030.
For more information about how you or your network can engage with the Sustainable Development Goals, check out ICW’s Guide for Networks of Women Living with HIV available here.
Nothing for us, without us!
- https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/9765Q and A for HLPF National reviews 2016.pdf
High Level Political Forum 2016 Statement A4 (69 KB) High Level Political Forum 2016 Statement US Letter (70 KB)
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!
- UNAIDS (2012), Every minute, a young woman is newly infected with HIV.
- UNFPA (2012), From Childhood to Womanhood: Meeting the Sexual and Reproductive Health Needs of Adolescent Girls.
- World Health Organization (2013), Women’s health.
- UNAIDS (2012), Every minute, a young woman is newly infected with HIV.
- UNDP et al (2013), Protecting the Rights of Key HIV-Affected Women and Girls in Healthcare Settings: A Legal Scan.
- Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, A/HRC/22/53, paras. 46-48.
- 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, para. 96.
CYWAG WGNRR Advanced of the HLM Meeting on Ending AIDS Statement A4 (1520 KB)
Released date: 27-May-2016
We, young women living with HIV in all our diversity, demand proper access to heath, including sexual and reproductive services, treatment and change in policies!
As we celebrate the International Day of Action for Women’s Health, we celebrate all the milestones we have made in ending the HIV epidemic and inclusion of young women to ensure that we have our voices heard and that no one is left behind.
Young women living with HIV all over the world have been working relentlessly to support our peers in empowerment and formation processes, including accepting our HIV status as something that only makes us stronger, and embracing our bodies as unique, beautiful and powerful no matter the shape or size. We recognize that we have autonomy over our sexuality, our femininity, our womanhood and every single matter regarding our wombs, and sexual and reproductive health and rights. We recognize and embrace our right to choose to disclose or not disclose to our partners, families and any other person, whenever and however we decide to.
The issue that remains a thorn in the flesh is the low accessibility to treatment cutting across all groups of young women living with HIV. We must have high quality health services, including for sexual and reproductive health and treatment that is available, accessible and affordable. These services must be evidence based, with a gender perspective, diversity conscious and youth friendly, so adolescents in transition don’t get lost in the system, reducing the number of deaths among adolescents.
We, young women in all our diversity, are calling on Governments and other key decision makers to:
- Eliminate adverse, discriminating and unsafe laws and policies including criminalization of HIV transmission, which continue to impede HIV prevention and treatment, and haven’t impacted positively in any effect on the incidence reduction.
- Eliminate the criminalization of key populations like young women who use drugs, young sex workers and young lesbians and men who have sex with men which put these populations in unsafe situations and endangers their lives.
- Create more mechanisms to ensure impactful engagement and rights implementation of the commitments already taken to reform punitive legal policies and frameworks aimed at young people living with HIV.
- Recognize that we have autonomy over our bodies, and that gender based discrimination and violence is a barrier to ending AIDS by 2030.
- Ensure that young women’s rights, especially of those most marginalized are upheld by reducing violence against women, especially in conflict settings.
- Recognize that sexual and reproductive health and rights encompasses abortion on demand, clear guidelines on breastfeeding for women living with HIV, freedom from forced and coerced sterilization, rights-based prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) programs, as well as increased commitment and investment to ending maternal mortality.
- Recognize that women living with HIV are not only mothers, but we are also independent human beings, who are also deserving of our full human rights including sexual and reproductive health and rights and access to treatment.
ICW CYWAG International Day of Action For Women's Health Statement (1401 KB)
Released date: 27-May-2016
To mark the International Day of Action for Women’s Health, GNP+, ICW and the IATT are launching “Positive Health, Dignity and Prevention for Women and their Babies: A treatment literacy guide for pregnant women and mothers living with HIV”
In line with the Day of Action’s call for a holistic inclusive and human rights-based approach to women and girls’ health, this new treatment literacy guide is a practical informative tool that reflects the latest WHO guidelines.
Available in both English and French, the guide is designed to offer a complete package of guidance for women living with HIV who are pregnant or considering getting pregnant.
Women living with HIV from eight countries have shared their expertise to shape the content and design of the guide and it was formulated in direct response to a call from communities for up-to-date, evidence-based resources.
Positive Health, Dignity and Prevention for Women and their Babies: A treatment literacy guide for pregnant women and mothers living with HIV is intended for use by networks of women living with HIV, women’s groups, peer educators and others wishing to provide information and guidance to support women living with HIV through the decisions they will need to make before, during and after their pregnancy.
The guide has 12 modules covering issues ranging from human rights to treatment adherence and nutrition. It is made up of three separate tools:
- facilitator’s manual
- illustrated flipchart
- accessible poster.
The facilitator’s manual and flipchart are intended to be used together by leaders of support groups, peer educators or lay counselors to facilitate small groups or community sessions with women living with HIV. The poster can be displayed anywhere where it will be seen by women living with HIV and their families, such as: clinic rooms, church halls, waiting rooms and community education spaces.
Quotes from the community
“When we piloted the materials, for the PMTCT guide the flipchart captured the women’s attention, ensuring a highly interactive discussion in which everyone participated.
Women in our support groups have shared that they get a lot of mixed messages and poor information, and they hope this PMTCT guide will open a dialogue on how best to ensure that women living with HIV have correct information and practical support for their pregnancy and experiences of motherhood.”
“The treatment literacy guide on PMTCT is one of its kind in Zambia. NZP+ and other community groups have been waiting for such a tool to guide us in our efforts to support women living with HIV to make informed decisions about their lives, free of stigma. The design and format would work very well in our country. NZP+ has community and health facility based supporters who conduct weekly/ monthly support sessions with women living with HIV on various health issues including family planning and PMTCT and we look forward to using the guide during these sessions.”
“Enfin un outil qui peut nous permettre de booster les choses, de nous activer en tant que femmes vivant avec le VIH pour emmener les femmes concernées elles même à comprendre les contours de la PTME.” (“Finally a tool that allows us to advance, to rise up as women living with HIV to lead women to engage themselves in understanding the issues surrounding PMTCT”).
“En plus cet outil facilitera aussi le renforcement des réseaux des femmes et leur leadership.”(“This tool will also strengthen networks of women and their leaders.”)
“As a West African activist on PMTCT, I noticed that our communities don’t always have access to or understand the global guidelines from WHO. The technical language with no images, was hard to communicate at a community level. There was a kind of disconnect between the global level and community level.
We welcome this treatment literacy guide for PMTCT. It will allow women to more easily understand the latest science and a comprehensive approach to PMTCT along all four pillars.”
This guide was developed by members of the Community Engagement Working Group (CEWG) of the Inter-Agency Task Team (IATT) for Prevention and Treatment of HIV Infection in Pregnant Women, Mother and Children, a group committed to strengthening global, regional and national partnerships and programs that address the survival of pregnant women, mothers and children living with HIV.
Download the guide here
- Treatment literacy PMTCT – Facilitator's Manual (EN) (1091 KB)
- Treatment literacy PMTCT – Flipchart (EN) (1114 KB)
- Treatment literacy PMTCT – 2 Poster (EN) (31 KB)
- Treatment literacy PMTCT – Facilitator's Manual (FR) (548 KB)
- Treatment literacy PMTCT – Flipchart (FR) (1121 KB)
- Treatment literacy PMTCT – A2 Poster (FR) (46 KB)
New PMTCT Treatment Literacy Guide: Taking Action for Women’s Health! (278 KB)
Released date: 18-May-2016
Invest in HIV Prevention Research that Responds to the Needs of Women and Girls
The International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW) joins development partners, policy makers, advocates and other stakeholders to observe the International HIV Vaccine Awareness Day which is marked annually on May 18th. Also known as World AIDS Vaccine Day, this day is an opportunity for HIV vaccine advocates to recognize and thank all of the thousands of volunteers, community members, health professionals, and scientists who work together to find a safe and effective preventive HIV vaccine.1
Join our advocacy workshop entitled ‘HIV Vaccines Research and Development’ to mark World HIV Vaccines Awareness Day, to be held in partnership with Kenya AIDS Vaccines Initiative (KAVI) and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) on May 18, 2016 at 3pm NBO time/8am Washington D.C. time.
To participate, please email your Skype ID or phone number to firstname.lastname@example.org
Historically, women have been underrepresented in AIDS vaccine research, and especially women living with HIV for whom vaccines may have a therapeutic effect.2 This lack of involvement is partially a result of non-existent or ineffective recruitment strategies and inadequate financing to involve women in programmatic design and decision-making processes at all levels of the research process. Ensuring women, including women living with HIV, participate in all levels of research development and implementation can help researchers recognize and overcome barriers such as sensitivities around HIV disclosure and stigma, and practical barriers such as child care and transport needs, as well as ensuring that technical jargon is accessible to all research participants.3
ICW calls on researchers and stakeholders to make deliberate efforts for equitable recruitment in research that support meaningful engagement of women and girls, and particularly, women living with HIV.
We urge researchers and other stakeholders in the scientific community to make deliberate efforts to support the engagement of women and particularly, women living with HIV in research. Our participation will ensure accountability mechanisms are in place for monitoring implementation of good participatory practice (GPP)4 and other ethical advisory mechanism followed during clinical trials. This will increase accountability, program effectiveness and have positive outcomes on research for all women and girls, especially, women living with HIV.
Call to Action
ICW demands gender equality in vaccine research!
ICW calls on the research community to ensure that women are equitably engaged in clinical research trials and to ensure that data collected is disaggregated by gender and age. Join ICW in calling for investment in preventive HIV research and holding governments and leaders accountable for ensuring the equitable participation of women and girls in research that is respectful of human rights and results in interventions that are realistic and responsive to our needs.
Advocate for investment in HIV preventive research
We urge all women living with HIV in all our diversity and our allies to act and urge national stakeholders in health and international community to invest in gender responsive research and support implementation of new HIV prevention technologies as a critical element to ending AIDS by 2030, reaching UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets and meeting the Sustainable Development Goals 3 and 5.
Support community action for responsive HIV research
Actively participate in research going on within your community. Support peers to engage with researchers to ensure that women and girls effectively shape the research agenda. Participate in Community Advisory Groups (CAGs), which provide an opportunity not only for increasing the visibility and voice of women living with HIV, but also for collaborating with researchers and other stakeholders to increase the relevance and quality of research and promoting acceptance by communities.
Share the information about the importance of preventive HIV vaccines research
We urge all women living with HIV in all our diversity and our allies to sensitise our communities on the importance of preventive HIV research, as well as on the development of new HIV prevention technologies. Sensitizing communities catalyses interest to participate and to be agents of change in supporting effective research.
To join in the conversation and have your voice heard – join our advocacy workshop on ‘HIV Vaccines Research and Development’ on May 18, 2016 at 3pm NBO time/8am Washington D.C. time. This advocacy workshop is held in partnership with Kenya AIDS Vaccines Initiative (KAVI) and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) to participate, please email your Skype ID or phone number to email@example.com
MAKE RESEARCH WORK FOR WOMEN AND GIRLS LIVING WITH HIV!
- UNAIDS 2011; Good Participatory Practice; Guidelines for biomedical HIV prevention trials.
ICW HIV Vaccine Awareness Day 2016 Statement A4 (199 KB) ICW HIV Vaccine Awareness Day 2016 Statement US Letter (199 KB)