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The Face of AIDS/HIV is Female

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The AIDS epidemic increasingly is a female one. At the world’s largest AIDS meeting – the International AIDS Conference – women are making the case that effectively curbing AIDS/HIV will require focusing on poverty and violence, not just pregnancy and pills.

4.8 million people between the ages of 15 to 24 are living with HIV. Two-thirds are female. Women are at increased risk to infection due to sexual violence and poverty that drives young girls to leave school and marry in their teens — often to much older men — for economic security.

In Canada, women living in poverty are also at a heighten risk for HIV infection. One in seven women live in poverty in Canada – many of them working full time but as minimum wage earners they continue to fall below the poverty line. Economic dependence on men can prevent or discourage women from demanding safer sex out of fear of violence or abandonment. Limited incomes also restrict a women’s ability to leave domestic violence situations and protect themselves and their children from abuse. 

If we want to seriously address the HIV/AIDS pandemic, we must tackle women’s poverty and income inequality. Only then will women be truly independent, free and able to make the best decisions concerning their health and well-being (Buhler, 2008).

Read more: Buhler, (2008). Gender, Poverty and HIV/AIDS Among Women In Ontario. http://www.owhn.on.ca/pdfs/summer2008.pdf

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This week world leaders meet at the London Summit on Family Planning. Governments around the world made commitments to family planning. Two years ago the Canadian government omitted birth control from our foreign aid strategy. According to Kenya Red Cross, pregnancy is the leading cause of death of girls aged 15-19 yrs in developing countries. USAID Kenya sites 1/4 of girls in sub-Saharan Africa drop out of school due to unintended pregnancies, and according to the World Health Organization 800 women die in childbirth every day. This is a problem. YWCA Canada supports a women’s right to self determination. The Time to Save Women’s Lives is NOW.

Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rep-carolyn-maloney/the-time-to-save-womens-l_b_1670998.html