WHO Director-General Chan Discusses Effect of HIV/AIDS on Women on International Women's Day
March 8, 2007
World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan in a statement released in recognition of International Women's Day, which is scheduled for Thursday, discussed the effects of HIV/AIDS on women in sub-Saharan Africa, Xinhua News Agency reports. Chan in the statement said that in 2006, 74% of HIV-positive people in sub-Saharan Africa were young women (Xinhua News Agency, 3/7). Chan also said that women serve as the primary caregivers for their families -- a situation that is "particularly striking" in sub-Saharan Africa because the "burden of care for people living with AIDS and affected children is provided in the home." According to Chan, poverty is the "single greatest impediment" to improving women's health, and she added that WHO is "investing in strengthening the health workforce" to provide services for HIV/AIDS and other illnesses in developing countries. "Women's health is threatened because of the poor conditions in which many women work, the risks we encounter in our reproductive roles, and the discrimination and poverty that women face," Chan said, adding that she "strongly believe[s] that women hold the key to improving health, as agents of change in the family and in the community and as leaders in all areas. Given the right support, women can be a positive force in ways that can lift households and entire communities out of poverty" (Chan statement, 3/7). In addition, UNAIDS, UNIFEM and Johnson & Johnson recently announced that they are providing five countries will grants to address the links between gender-based violence and the spread of HIV, PTI/The Hindu reports. The five countries are Botswana, the Dominican Republic, India, Nigeria and Vietnam. Organizations in the countries that benefit from the grants will be expected to foster strategies aimed at raising awareness, upholding laws, providing medical assistance, training providers and reducing stigma and discrimination to benefit women. "Violence makes women more susceptible to HIV infection and the fear of violent male reactions, physical and psychological, prevents many women from trying to find out more about it, discourages them from getting tested and stops them from getting treatment," UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said (PTI/The Hindu, 3/4).
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