|Agenda for Action: Background Materials to the 4rth World Conference on Women (UNAIDS, 1995, 9 p.)|
The Fourth World Conference on Women is taking place at a time when women are increasingly becoming infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. From being almost absent from the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, women infected with HIV now number more than seven million with another one million women becoming infected this year. By the year 2000, over 14 million women will have been infected and four million of them will have died. Women worldwide are asking why a virus that infects both men and women is increasingly affecting women in a disproportionate manner.
The bleak reality is that the sexual and economic subordination of women fuels the HIV/AIDS pandemic. In order to break the cycle of neglect which affects women across their life span and across generations, it is essential to undertake actions which will allow women to make informed choices and enable them to improve the quality of their lives. Women must empower themselves by networking, forming alliances, and advocating for change. Top-level political commitment is needed to reduce the social vulnerability of women to HIV infection by improving their health, education, legal and economic prospects. Effective HIV/AIDS prevention and care efforts along with sound policies and programmes targeting women affected by HIV/AIDS need to be developed and integrated into existing national structures, particularly at the community and family level. Because such social vulnerability cannot be effectively challenged by women as individuals alone, or even as groups, building effective alliances between women and men based on mutual respect, remain the greatest challenge, but also the best hope, for the lives of tomorrow.