FIGO Reaffirms Commitment: World Aids Day (1 December 2009)

On 1 December 2009, FIGO reaffirms its commitment to highlighting World Aids Day.

World Aids Day is an international day to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS around the world. The first day was marked on 1 December 1988.

Through its Federation and Member Societies, FIGO is committed to increasing its profile to raise awareness and provide education and advocacy on serious and neglected issues affecting women’s health and lives globally. It is therefore actively involved in addressing the basic human right of a woman to live a life free from HIV/AIDS.

HIV/AIDS affects women at all levels of society in all countries. The AIDS pandemic, especially in low-resource countries, has aggravated the challenges in capital and health workforce resources in providing even emergency obstetric care, due to several reasons: a severely depleted workforce due to the deaths of nurses and other health professionals from AIDS; a shifting health workforce from sectors including reproductive health into HIV/AIDS; stigma for health professionals accessing HIV/AIDS screening and antiretroviral drugs; until recently, lack of political will to address maternal health; and a focus on PMTCT (Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission) as essential, without adequately addressing the consequences for the woman who is HIV-positive.

A specific link between women and AIDS was made in 2004 when the UNAIDS-led Global Coalition on Women and AIDS was established to respond to the increasing feminisation of the AIDS epidemic. There was a growing concern that existing AIDS strategies did not adequately address women’s needs.

Recognising the importance of strong leadership to move this agenda forward, Kristan Schoultz was appointed as the new Director of the Global Coalition on Women and AIDS, which began in September 2007.


What is HIV/AIDS?

• HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus
• HIV causes AIDs (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) by damaging the immune system cells until the system can no longer fight off infections it would normally prevent 
• It can be several years before HIV has damaged the immune system enough for AIDS to develop

Recent statistics

*The latest statistics (estimates) on the world epidemic of HIV and AIDS (published by UNAIDS/WHO in July 2008, and referring to the end of 2007:                                                          


People living with HIV/AIDS in 2007: 33.0 million 
Adults living with HIV/AIDS in 2007: 30.8 million 
Women living with HIV/AIDS in 2007: 15.5 million 
Children living with HIV/AIDS in 2007: 2.0 million 
People newly infected with HIV in 2007: 2.7 million 
Children newly infected with HIV in 2007: 0.37 million 
AIDS deaths in 2007: 2.0 million 
Child AIDS deaths in 2007: 0.27 million 

• More than 25 million people have died of AIDS since 1981.
• Africa has 11.6 million AIDS orphans.
• At the end of 2007, women accounted for 50% of all adults living with HIV worldwide, and for 59% in sub-Saharan Africa.
• Young people (under 25 years old) account for half of all new HIV infections worldwide.
• In developing and transitional countries, 9.7 million people are in immediate need of life-saving AIDS drugs; of these, only 2.99 million (31%) are receiving the drugs.

What is the impact on women’s health?

At the end of 2007, it was estimated that out of the 30.8 million adults living with HIV and AIDS worldwide, around half are women. It is suggested that 98 percent of these women live in developing countries.**

Women bear particular burdens:
Eg:
• Responsibility of care (care-giving usually falls to women)
• Mother-to-child transition (many women with HIV do not have adequate access to available drugs to lessen the chances of their unborn children contracting HIV)
• Medical differences (there are some differences between men and women in relation to opportunistic infections and antiretroviral drugs)

It can be difficult for women to protect themselves from infection:
Eg:
• Family inequalities - in many societies, women have few rights within sexual relationships/the family
• Violence against women - women who experience sexual violence face a higher risk of being exposed to the HIV virus
• Women’s inheritance and property rights - women’s limited economic stability can lead to sexual exploitation and violence

What is FIGO’s stance?

 - All women, everywhere, count.
 - It is a basic human right of a woman to live a life free from HIV/AIDS.
 - Stigma and discrimination continue to present barriers in a number of settings, including health and education, so fresh approaches are required to ensure an end to violations of sexual/reproductive rights.

What is FIGO’s aim?

• To promote condom-use as a necessary preventative measure
• To educate and support HIV-positive new mothers in the area of  ‘replacement-feeding’
• To improve access to anti-retroviral drugs
• To promote women-centred healthcare
• To end gender-based violence
• To reduce the stigma of HIV and HIV-testing through improving education, both in and out of schools
• To encourage women’s financial independence

How is FIGO achieving this?

Through education and advocacy activities of FIGO Member Societies
The FIGO Committee for women’s Sexual & Reproductive Rights encourages member societies to use existing international human rights to improve women’s reproductive and sexual health in their countries through collaboration, education and advocacy, and it recommends ways in which FIGO and its constituent societies can collaborate with national governments and other organisations to further advance these rights.
In support of this, at the FIGO General Assembly in 2006, a Resolution on ‘Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Rights - A Social Responsibility for Obstetricians-Gynecologists’ was passed.


Developing robust guidelines for the management of sexual violence
At its recent triennial Congress in Cape Town, South Africa, FIGO held a meeting to discuss the ongoing development of ‘Guidelines For The Management Of Sexual Violence’. Implementation of the recommendations in these guidelines should result in more appropriate management of survivors of sexual violence; reduced risk of contraindicated practices and inadequate documentation; better psychological recovery; and prevention of STI, post-rape pregnancy and HIV.