Commission on the Status of Women – Fifty-ninth session 9-20 March 2015

Follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and to the special session of the General Assembly entitled “Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century”

Statement by the Civil Society Working Group on AIDS and Development[1], a coalition of civil society organizations advocating on health priorities, including issues for people living with and vulnerable to HIV, particularly women, younger women, adolescents, and girls.

As civil society organizations advocating for effective health policies and programs, particularly within the HIV response, we recognize the importance of the contributions by the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) on the post-2015 development agenda. We also recognize the significant advances made in by MDGs 5 and 6. However, on the eve of the 59th session of the CSW, which will review triumphs and challenges in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, we note with discouragement that HIV have been forgotten in setting the agenda for this important event. Those of us engaged in improving the lives of those living with HIV, particularly women and girls, and working towards an end of AIDS note that as of February 23, 2015, the updated version of the CSW political declaration includes no meaningful reference to HIV, in spite of it being well documented during the Beijing +20 review meeting in December 2014 and regional review meetings across the globe.

HIV is widely acknowledged as a key cause for and consequence of the violation of women’s rights. Twenty years ago, the Beijing Platform for Action recognized the staggering number of people living with HIV as well as new infections, and, critically, the gendered aspect of the epidemic and the importance for global HIV strategic responses to address the particular needs and vulnerabilities of women, particularly young women and adolescents. We therefore respectfully submit for consideration the following:

Women, girls and the economics of HIV– Although significant advances have been made in the global response to HIV, the epidemic persists and yet funding for this threat to public health and to women’s rights—and the health of women and girls in particular—continues to shrink. At the current rate of reduced funding, the global goal of ending AIDS by 2030 simply will not be possible, especially considering that AIDS remains the leading cause of death for women (aged 15-44) worldwide.[2] We therefore urge Member States to recognize this persisting health concern and prioritize continued funding of the response to HIV as integral to the health and wellbeing of women and girls worldwide.

Women and girls and their sexual and reproductive health and rights – Globally, young women 15 to 24 years of age are at particular risk of HIV infection, early unintended pregnancy and violence, and they have infection rates twice as high as among young men. Young (aged 15-24) women account for more than a fifth of all new HIV infections and represent more than 40% of new HIV infections among all women.[3]  Young women and girls are the most likely to have unmet reproductive health needs.  Universal access to sexual and reproductive health services and reproductive rights is a critical element in rights-based development, gender equality and empowerment of women and girls. We therefore encourage that “sexual and reproductive health and rights” are explicitly referenced within the context of the respect of the right of all women and girls to have control over and make decision concerning their sexuality, which includes their sexual and reproductive health.

Violence against women and girls – Women living with HIV are more vulnerable to gender-based violence; in turn, exposure to gender-based violence increases vulnerability to HIV. Women disproportionately bear the twin burdens of HIV vulnerability and limited access to sexual and reproductive health and rights. Evidence shows that women living with HIV who experience violence are less likely to have positive outcomes related to adherence to treatment, contributing to a hastened progression from HIV to AIDS complications. Member States have pledged to eliminate gender inequalities and gender-based violence, and increase the capacity of women and girls to protect themselves and future generations from HIV. These laudable goals are achievable, but only through strengthened, scaled-up action that will take them through the post‑2015 development setting. We therefore urge that HIV be explicitly referenced and included in the CSW59 Declaration as a strong indication that HIV and AIDS are considered key determinants in women’s health and wellbeing.  

Conclusion

For the over 17 million women and girls living with HIV around the world, the epidemic is far from over. The current pace of progress is insufficient to reach several of the targets to be achieved by 2015 as agreed in the Political Declaration of the 2011 High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS. Even with all the advances made, a young woman acquires HIV every minute—this means that 5 young women have contracted HIV while you were reading this statement. We therefore urge that no woman and girl living with HIV and no woman and girl vulnerable to HIV is left behind in this CSW, nor in the Post 2015 agenda. We must preserve funding streams and maintain a continued focus on access to care, treatment, and support, prevention of stigma and discrimination, and increased attention to securing sexual, reproductive, and human rights protections for women and girls living with HIV.  This body must take urgent action to include language within the CSW59 declaration that reflects the reality for women and girls worldwide.

 


[1] Working group membership is composed of networks and organizations from regions and populations that are adversely affected by the HIV pandemic.  The Secretariat of the CSWG can be reached at gro.o1508686006sacI@1508686006GDM51150868600602tso1508686006P1508686006.

[2] World Health Organization, 2013.

[3] UNAIDS (GAP Report 2014).

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