HIV/AIDS & Young Women: What You Can Do to Fight For Young Women’s Lives on World AIDS Day

By Feminist Campus Admin

On December 1st, the world will remember almost 60 million people have been infected with HIV and 25 million people have died of HIV-related causes since the beginning of the epidemic. Today, in many parts of the world, including the U.S., women have become the face of the disease. Women make up an increasing proportion of adults (ages 15–49) living with HIV/AIDS.

Young adults, ages 15–24 account for approximately half of new adult HIV infections and 28% of the global total of adults living with HIV/AIDS. Most young people living with AIDS are girls (62%), including 76% of HIV-positive young people in sub-Saharan Africa. In some countries, infection rates are up to six times higher among young women than young men.

These statistics are shocking, but real.

Sadly, the U.S. has been a strong proponent of abstinence-only funding for HIV/AIDS prevention programs around the world. These programs have been proven ineffective and continues the spread of the disease.

Based on recent studies, much of US aid for global AIDS relief administered under the Bush Administration was given to conservative, faith-based organizations (FBOs) that strongly promoted abstinence as a prevention method and demonized condom use. This type of “proselytization” of what is deemed as appropriate sexual behavior reverses the efforts to fight AIDS and continue its spread. Though a lot has changed in favor of comprehensive HIV/AIDS relief for young women under the Obama Administration, the fear of the continued trend of supporting conservative, anti-choice FBOs is very real. As a matter of fact, many FBOs that have partnered with the U.S. up to 2008 have provided AIDS relief in many developing countries with a special focus on abstinence-only in youth prevention programs. This (as well as lack of access to condoms) is directly tied to the continued rise of HIV transmission among young people.

Young feminists across the country are needed now more than ever! We can make a difference! We can collectively change the way our government makes foreign policy and who it gives our funds to. On this World AIDS Day, advocate for women’s sexual and reproductive rights and sustainable AIDS relief on your campus by:

  • Contacting members of Congress, the Obama Administration, and the United Nations’ Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon via letter-writing campaigns, call-ins, fax-ins, or emails and demand that the U.S. end its support of abstinence-only funding for HIV/AIDS prevention.
  • Pressing our government to meet the MDGs’ 2015 deadline by increasing international sexual and reproductive health care funding to $3 billion which would provide universal access!
  • Not just waiting on World AIDS Day, but get an early start in this “lame-duck” session to petition members of Congress to ratify the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and pass the International Violence Against Women Act. These policies can curb the epidemic significantly by ending violence against women. Contact the Campus Team if you’d like to screen FMF’s short documentary “CEDAW: The Secret Treaty”. Remember, we only need 67 votes in the Senate!
  • Writing op-ed’s and campus newspaper articles about the dangers of supporting abstinence-only funding for global HIV/AIDS prevention and the need to support comprehensive sex ed in schools.
  • Coordinating with student health services and nearby bars and restaurants to distribute free male and female condoms with HIV/AIDS facts.
  • Creating a mural/collage display of various photos, letters, drawings, etc. representing the many “faces of HIV/AIDS” and their many walks of life. This disease affects everyone and we should continue to dispel the myths of who HIV/AIDS affects.
  • Sponsoring a benefit theater production or music concert where the proceeds go to a local HIV/AIDS organization or campus HIV/AIDS program.
  • Collaborating with your university’s public health, nursing, medical, international affairs, and public policy schools/programs and student health services to host a discussion or seminar on the gendered-based effects of HIV/AIDS globally.
  • Collaborating with international student organizations and environmental campus groups to create a poster and flyer campaign that shows how poverty and the results of climate change, like depleting water sources, impact young women living with HIV/AIDS.

There’s so much we all can do to take action in the fight against AIDS. Remember, you can make a difference in saving the lives of young women and girls around the world. Fight for women and girls on World AIDS Day!

Few action ideas courtesy of Minnesota’s Department of Health How to Plan World AIDS Day Activities 2010: Universities/Colleges Tips.

This post is part of the November 2010 ezine.

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