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Getting to Zero: Celebrating young feminist activism on HIV/AIDS

December 1st, 2012 commemorates World AIDS Day. The day was established in 1988 and marked the first global health day aimed at raising awareness about the pandemic, encourage prevention, demonstrate solidarity for people living with HIV, and remember people who have died of AIDS-related causes globally. From 2011 to 2015 the theme of World AIDS Day is “Getting to zero: zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS related deaths.”[1]

Since the beginning of the epidemic in the early 1980s, approximately 30 million people have died as result of AIDS. Currently, UNAIDS estimate that there are 34 million people living with HIV/AIDS globally. [2] Worldwide women account for 50% of all new HIV infections as the continuous discrimination against their human rights, including sexual and reproductive rights contribute to their increasing chances to contracting HIV/AIDS. Young people between the ages of 15 – 24 represent 11.8 million of those living with HIV/AIDS, and 63% of all youth living with HIV/AIDS are young women. It is also important to note that 60% of all HIV infections in women occur before they turn 20 years old. [3] [4] Globally, young women (15-24) are most vulnerable to HIV with infection rates twice as high as in young men. The vulnerabilities – biological, social, economical and cultural – that place young women at greater risk for HIV/AIDS everywhere are deeply linked to pervasive gender inequalities, discriminations and violence that prevents them from negotiating safe sex, access to HIV prevention information and services, disclosing their status, seek treatment and care.[5] [6]

Considering these grave facts, the slogan of ‘Getting to Zero’ will require further sustained effort and political will that transcends World AIDS Day.  And we must continue to hold our governments accountable to promises made over the last 30 years, particularly to the commitments made in 2006 with the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS: Intensifying Our Efforts to Eliminate HIV/AIDS, where head of States affirmed commitments to moving towards universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. Prevention efforts should emphasize programs that empower young women and girls to know their bodies and exercise their rights, particularly through comprehensive sexuality education. All young people, particularly those living with HIV, should have access to youth-friendly integrated services for sexual and reproductive health, HIV prevention and care. We must work together to mobilize leadership and political will for policies and programmes including funding for actions that empower women and girls living with and affected by HIV/AIDS to live healthy and productive lives. Getting to Zero will also require viewing women and girls as true social agents of change in the struggle against HIV/AIDS and not just victims of the pandemic.

World AIDS Day means different things for different people. For some it is a reminder of how much more needs to be done to ensure that people know how to protect themselves, have access to treatment and the care they need to live healthy lives. For others, the disproportionate impact HIV and AIDS has on women and girls is directly related to deep rooted inequalities, discrimination, violence and stigma that prevent all of us from moving forward. And it is also a reminder that real change cannot take place if those who are most affected are not included at the decision making table.

For us at the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), this year’s World AIDS Day is about bringing visibility to all the remarkable and life changing work young women around the world are doing to fight against HIV/AIDS and all its related consequences.  Over the next 10 days, AWID will share with you inspiring profiles of young women activist and initiatives from around the world, who are working to combat HIV and AIDS and to bring about positive and lasting changes to their communities and beyond. These young women are mobilizing funding to support youth-led initiatives to tackle HIV/AIDS, they are advocating for the integration of sexual and reproductive health services and HIV/AIDS, and producing plays and positive messaging aimed at changing the way popular media perceives sex workers and HIV/AIDS.  They are definitively not victims in this struggle. Through their work and commitment, young women show us they are active social agents making the changes that need to take place so that we can Get to Zero.

[1] UNAIDS Strategy 2011-2015. Getting to Zero.

[2] UNAIDS. World AIDS Day Report; 2011.

[3] UNAIDS Factsheet, 2012 G L O B A L   F A C T S H E E T – WORLD AIDS DAY 2012

[4] UNAIDS. HIV/AIDS and young people: Hope for Tomorrow report 2011

[5] WHO multi-country study on women’s health and domestic violence against women: summary report of initial results on prevalence, health outcomes and women’s responses. Geneva, World Health Organization, 5 it200

[6] Claudia Garcia-Moreno, Charlotte Watts. 2000. “Violence against women: its importance for HIV/AIDS.” AIDS 14


2 thoughts on “Getting to Zero: Celebrating young feminist activism on HIV/AIDS”

  1. Priscilla Usiobaifo says:

    Well done. We will continually and consistently work towards the realisation of this theme.

    As a rural activist working on this issue, reading the profiles of other young women such as me will spur me to doing more.

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