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close this bookWomen and AIDS (Best Practice- Point of View) (UNAIDS, 1997, 6 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentFacts and Figures
View the documentWhat makes women so vulnerable to HIV infection?
View the documentSix paths to empowerment
View the documentUNAIDS Best Practice materials

Six paths to empowerment

A vulnerable woman is one who is lacking in power or control over her risk of HIV infection. The remedy is empowerment.

Combat ignorance

Improve the access of girls to formal schooling. Ensure they have information about their own bodies, education about AIDS and the other STDs, and the skills to say no to unwanted or unsafe sex. UNAIDS is testing and comparing different approaches to skills-building and determining the best practices in this area.

Provide women-friendly services

Ensure that girls and women have access to appropriate health care and HIV/STD prevention services at places and times that are convenient for them. Expand voluntary HIV testing and counselling services. Make condoms and STD care available where women can go without embarassment. UNAIDS is helping to ensure that women’s family planning options help rather than undermine their ability to avoid HIV.

Develop female-controlled prevention methods

The male condom, currently the only barrier method available for HIV prevention, urgently needs to be complemented by methods that women themselves can use, if necessary without the knowledge or cooperation of their male partner. UNAIDS is facilitating the development of and access to several such methods, including the female condom and vaginal microbicides - virus-killing creams or foams that women can insert vaginally before intercourse. A microbicide that does not kill sperm and prevent conception would be helpful to millions of couples worldwide.

Build safer norms

Support women’s groups and community organizations in questioning behavioural traditions which have become deadly with the advent of AIDS, including tolerance of child abuse, rape and sexual coercion. Educate boys and men to respect girls and women, to engage in responsible sexual behaviour, and to share the responsibility for protecting themselves, their partners and their children from HIV and the conventional STDs. UNAIDS speaks out for safer, egalitarian norms and supports concrete efforts to build these in and out of school.

Reinforce women’s economic independence

Multiply and strengthen existing training opportunities for women, credit programmes, saving schemes and women’s cooperatives, and link them with AIDS prevention activities. For example, UNAIDS is supporting efforts to enable Zambian women fish traders to form a cooperative that will give them interest-free loans. With these, they will no longer have to exchange sex with the fishermen or truck drivers who control their access to fish and to transport.

Reduce vulnerability through policy change

UNAIDS’ message is that policies from community to national level must be reshaped if women’s vulnerability to HIV is to be reduced. Among other things, this means protecting their human rights and fundamental freedoms and improving their economic independence and legal status. This cannot be achieved without a greater political voice for women.

“[In Brazil] sterilization and the IUD are the methods that doctors and family planning services tend to offer. ... The problem for a sterilized woman is how to justify or negotiate condom use with her partner without jeopardizing her relationship, because it forces discussion of the sensitive issues of trust and fidelity.“

Telma Regina Cavalheiro, GAPA (Support Croup for the Prevention of AIDS)