Women Becoming New Face of AIDS in Asia
July 7, 2005
The number of women infected with HIV in Asia has risen 20 percent since 2003 to 2.3 million, compared with a 17 percent increase for the region's total population, UNAIDS said at the recent 7th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific. In India, 2 million of the country's 5.1 million HIV/AIDS cases are female, said Periasamy Kousalya, head of the Positive Women Network, an activist group of about 5,000 HIV-infected Indian women.
Experts at the conference, held in Kobe, Japan, said the status of women in Asia's male-dominated culture makes them especially vulnerable to HIV. "Economically, culturally, socially, women are disadvantaged," said Kousalya. "They lack access to support systems for HIV."
Frika Chia Iskandar, an Indonesian representative of the Seven Sisters nonprofit for people living with HIV/AIDS, reported that she has occasionally been denied medical care because of her HIV-positive status. Iskandar said she feared further stigmatization at home because of her outspokenness about the disease abroad. "I am the new face of HIV in Asia," she said.
In Japan, HIV discrimination is more subtle, said an HIV-positive women who would only identify herself as "Nancy." "Social welfare is available for Japanese patients with HIV. But I live deep in the countryside, and if I apply for benefits, everybody in the community will know about my infection."
"Japan has good treatments available, good welfare systems," said Nancy. "But those systems are made by someone at the government, without inputs from people with HIV. We want to make our voices heard so that our thoughts and requests will be reflected in decisions of policymakers."
Agence France Presse
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.