Women living with HIV championing the response to AIDS in Kenya

Posted on November 7, 2011  |  Related Issues: Women, Girls, and HIV

More than 200 women living with HIV in Kenya committed to championing the response to AIDS in the country. The call for more involved action came at the end of a two-day National Leadership Conference for Women Living with HIV.

The purpose of the meeting was to reenergize women living with HIV towards strengthening their leadership roles in the HIV response. The conference was facilitated by the National AIDS Control Council and the Network of People Living with HIV in Kenya with support from the UN Joint Team on AIDS.

In her opening remarks, Minister for Special Programmes Esther Murugi reiterated “the urgent need to develop strong leadership of women living with HIV to take the reins to end the AIDS epidemic”.

With its theme of “Championing Women Leadership to AIDS”, the forum centred around three key thrusts: women’s leadership to create a social movement and community action for HIV prevention; women’s political leadership to develop opportunities offered by the new constitution; and women’s leadership to improve uptake and delivery of HIV services.

Kenyan government statistics indicate that national HIV prevalence is 6.3 %, compared to 8 % for women. HIV prevalence among women is nearly double the rate for men, which is 4.3 percent. HIV prevalence among young women aged 15 – 24 years is more than four times higher than men in the same age group at 4.5 and 1.1 percent, respectively.

Women have been pioneers in the AIDS response, as care providers but also as community leaders. The conference provided a forum for women to re-position the leadership of women living with HIV by building on the achievements of the earlier women movements. It also provided a platform to discuss advocacy efforts to influence policies, planning and budgeting processes in national AIDS programmes to respond to the needs of women and girls living with HIV.

“Women and girls living with HIV must be meaningfully engaged at every stage of national HIV responses to ensure that their needs are well addressed,” said UNAIDS Country Coordinator, Maya Harper.

Participants agreed to strengthen strategies to include women living with HIV in national AIDS response as well as to explore opportunities to mentor, empower and build capacity of young women and mentor young women living with HIV into leadership. Participants also resolved to develop advocacy groups at national level to drive the agenda for women living with HIV and increase domestic funding for HIV response.

One highlight of the event was an award ceremony to honour women living with HIV who have championed for and contributed towards Kenya’s HIV response. The awardees were drawn from all regions of the country and included people living with disabilities.

The Minister of Gender, Children and Social Development, Dr Naomi Shabaan, urged the awardees to “continue to mentor others and together we will end AIDS”.

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