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Experts Discuss at the OAS Challenges in the Protection of Human Rights of Women Living with HIV and AIDS

  November 28, 2012

The XLVII Policy Roundtable organized by the Organization of American States (OAS) today focused on the challenges in the protection of the human rights of women living with HIV and AIDS, the work that regional and international organizations are doing in this area and the policy recommendations to promote and protect their human rights.

The event, held at OAS headquarters in Washington DC, was inaugurated by the organization’s Secretary for External Relations, Ambassador Alfonso Quiñonez, on behalf of Secretary General José Miguel Insulza. Secretary Quiñonez announced that the OAS wants to join the commemoration of the Global HIV/AIDS Response Day to be held shortly "with this space for reflection that allows us, with the appropriate policies and articulated programs, to make progress in the protection and promotion of the rights of people living with HIV and AIDS."

In his speech, Ambassador Quiñónez said that "even though there are more men living with HIV and AIDS than women, women and girls continue to face increased vulnerability to the infection due to social, cultural, economic and related biological factor linked to gender, sexual violence and less access to diagnostic and treatment services in our countries."

He referred also to other challenges that HIV positive women face on issues such as medical access, employment, discrimination and intolerance, and recalled the importance of "incorporating differentiating criteria into public policies that take into account the priorities of women."

The session, moderated by the Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM), Ambassador Carmen Moreno, began with the presentation by the President of ICW Global: International Community of Women living with HIV/AIDS, Patricia Pérez, who said that the problem underlying the disease is not medical-scientific, but political, and called for putting the issue back on the international political agenda. In the morning, the President of ICW Global made ​​a presentation to the OAS Permanent Council in which she called urged those present "to put the issue of AIDS and human rights of women on the regional political agenda." In her presentation, held at the invitation of the Permanent Mission of Argentina to the OAS, Pérez explained to the delegates of the member countries the importance of the issue and acknowledged the support of the OAS, which was formalized after the intervention of several Permanent Representatives who assigned to the topic of AIDS and human rights great importance for the development of the countries of the hemisphere.

"We have a challenge, which is to adapt the laws, declarations and commitments that countries have adopted the in the international framework to the actual practice, and use these instruments to provide a better quality of life," said the ICW representative, referring to the content of the Millennium Development Goals and the Declaration of Belém do Pará on the Elimination of Violence against Women, adopted in 1994.

Other challenges mentioned in her presentation included poor access to antiretroviral medicine; lack of specific pediatric treatment formulas; discrimination; homophobia; and lack of respect for the freedom of choice of these women. Pérez concluded by highlighting the relationship between peace and AIDS and advocating for more education on the topic "for more solidarity and less violence."

The Senior Partnerships Advisor for UNAIDS in Washington, DC, Pauline Muchina, alluded to the economic, social and political violence that women with AIDS suffer and recalled the initiatives undertaken by UNAIDS to protect the rights of this population and the joint efforts made ​​with the OAS in this matter. "Women living with AIDS are the solution, not the problem, so they should be at the center of global initiatives in the epidemic," she said.

For her part, the Regional Prevention Advisor of the HIV Project of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Sonja Caffe, spoke about inequality in the countries of the hemisphere in terms of access to health care, and especially the importance of identifying the barriers that prevent promoting gender equality in the right to health. In addition, she explained the efforts made ​​by PAHO so that its Member Countries make progress in optimizing treatment and in the recollection, analysis and reporting of sex-disaggregated data of people who have AIDS.

Finally, the Director of Development Connections, Dinys Luciano, commented on the need to "restore a holistic and indivisible vision on the rights of women living with HIV" and acknowledged some gaps in this regard, such as the low participation of these women in political decision-making spheres of the countries of the Americas, the lack of documentation and identification of the violation of their rights, and impunity.

Luciano stressed the need to work on comprehensive sexual education to "break with the social nature of the systematic violation of human rights against women with AIDS" and to recognize that poverty and social exclusion affect this population.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-432/12