20th International AIDS Conference - Melbourne, Australia

THSY05 Transforming Gender Inequalities for Zero New HIV Infections, Zero Discrimination and Zero AIDS-related Deaths
  Symposia Session
Venue: Clarendon Auditorium
Time: 24.07.2014, 14:30 - 16:00
Co-Chairs: Mireille Guigaz, France
Mauro Cabral, Argentina

This session will explore the global landscape of HIV and gender inequality from the perspective of people living with HIV, women and transgender persons. Session participants will share their experiences with regard to gender inequality and will address the relationship between gender inequalities and HIV within the context of both personal and collective experiences. These stories will serve as the foundation for a broader discussion about the role of gender inequalities in HIV vulnerability. The moderator will also gather written questions and comments from the audience. The goal is to identify best practices for addressing gender inequalities as an integral part of a comprehensive, gender-specific HIV response.
M. Guigaz, France
M. Cabral, Argentina

Living with HIV as a young women in Puerto Rico
L. Thomas Negrón, Puerto Rico

Inspiring change: media's role in gender inequality
V. Macdonald, United Kingdom

Making it happen: a comprehensive package for women, girls and gender equality
B. Rivona, Indonesia

Stories of success in addressing gender inequality
S. Moroz, Ukraine

How transgender people can transform discrimination for zero new HIV infections
M. Cabral, Argentina

Moderated Discussion

Questions and answers

Closing Remarks

Powerpoints presentations
Making it happen: a comprehensive package for women, girls and gender equality - Baby Rivona

Stories of success in addressing gender inequality - Swetlana Moroz

Rapporteur report

Track D report by Shalini Bharat

That gender is critical for an effective HIV response is well established. But addressing and transforming gender inequalities has proved to be difficult everywhere. In this symposium session two women living with HIV made the link between gender inequalities and HIV related vulnerabilities come alive through sharing of their lived experiences of unequal gender norms and relations.  A woman journalist with experiencing of covering AIDS for nearly three decades and a representative of one NGO were other speakers in the panel. The panel was moderated by Mauro Cabral and Mireille Guigaz.

Mauro opened the symposium by remarking that ‘gender equals women’ is the first limitation of the global discourse on gender and lately even when men are included, transgender persons are still left out of the equation. This needs to be addressed in future discourses. The limiting ways in which gender is conceptualised and expressed are a big hurdle in addressing gender inequalities. In the fight against HIV the first step would be to call for building a gender diverse perspective so that the term gender accurately expresses all gender categories.

L’Orangelis Thomas Negron, aged 23 years, from Porto Rico, shared her story of being a positive woman who has known about her status from a young age, and has been on medication for almost a decade but lived with a lot of knowledge gaps for a long time. Not until she was 20 years that she learned everything about her medication and the significance of taking it regularly. She spoke about the struggles of being on medicine while at school, feeling sick and missing school, school grades going down, but not being able to understand the why and what of medication, or sharing the problems with others. The attitude of health workers, though one of sympathy, is unsupportive, as ‘they do not know what it is like to take medicines on a daily basis’. Her story affirmed that adolescent girls living with HIV are under the same normative pressures of growing up and becoming sexually active as other girls their age. And unequal gender relations mean that they get sexually assaulted sometimes and are not able to be in control to avoid sexual risk behaviour. Lack of correct knowledge about medicines and about sexual risks meant that women are made vulnerable because ‘if you don’t know, you do many crazy things’. Ignorance and lack of agency in her case were part of being a woman.

Baby Rivona from Indonesia, a positive woman with a history of drug use, talked about the struggles of achieving gender equality in her country for women living with HIV. She emphasised the point that getting to zero would be impossible without including women living with HIV in the response in a meaningful way. Specifically she talked about respecting and recognising the sexual and reproductive health rights of women living with HIV. These rights would mean three action points: Linking sexual and reproductive health rights with HIV response; realising these rights for all gender categories, and integrating violence against women within the HIV response. The essential point Baby Rivona made was that gender inequalities are intimately related to violence and the social perception that women living with HIV have no right to enjoy sexual pleasures and have fertility desires.

Forced sterilisation of women living with HIV must stop and maternal health made part of HIV response. She pointed out that women with HIV are not provided with adequate information to be able to make informed and educated choices about their conception and contraception. The result is that women living with HIV in many situations do not know how to protect their partner from HIV. One of the concrete steps for addressing gender inequalities would be to support sex education for children.

Victoria MacDonald a correspondent with Channel 4, described her experiences of reporting on AIDS for over three decades and underscored the point that media’s role in shaping gender norms and attitudes is enormous. It has a special responsibility to portray HIV stories in a gender sensitive and balanced manner. She mentioned examples of media reporting that were impactful such as, Princess Diana touching a person living with HIV to spread messages of anti-stigma and currently media reporting on legislations criminalising gay sex and sex work in Uganda and Nigeria and about violence against LGBT community. She highlighted the need for capacity building among media persons for gender sensitive and reporting of HIV issues. Media in many countries portrays women as poor, passive and dependent which needs to change. The growing popularity of social media is important at this juncture because although it can shape sentiments it is not being regulated. It needs to be harnessed. Language also has a role in shaping gender attitudes and for developing a higher degree of empathy in reporting on HIV matters.

The last speaker was Svitlana Moroz from Ukraine who shared the work of Eurasia Women’s network on AIDS in Ukraine and Russia. She described many campaigns that fight stigma and violence against drug users in the region. One of the important contributions she talked about was the participation in preparing the CEDAW report for Ukraine. The first time inclusion of positive women’s report in CEDAW included stgma index and statement if lesbian and transgender women. However, what was not included was the access to assisted reproductive technology including IVF.

Discussion with the audience brought out additional points about addressing gender issues. For example, the complexity of disclosure of HIV status especially by women to their children, the reactions and the lack of support available to women in doing so. The absence of coordination among various organisations working on gender issues, especially those working on issues concerning diverse categories; gay, MSM, transgender, LGBT, was discussed. This also brought out the dynamics and compulsions of funding programs and the silos thus created. 


    The organizers reserve the right to amend the programme.