The International Community of Women Living with HIV Eastern Africa
In Commemoration of the International Women’s Day - 8th March 2011
African Women's Decade:
The decade of maternal health, freedom from violence and human rights
for young women and all women living with HIV
In response to the African Union's efforts and our Heads of States' commitments to women and girls on this continent, women and young women living with HIV from Eastern Africa join the rest of the world on 8 March 2011 honoring 100 years of International Women's Day.
We are here to specifically focus on the alarming situation of Maternal & Child Health of women living with HIV in our region. Globally more than half a million women die in pregnancy and childbirth every year. Of these deaths, 99 % are in developing countries. Post-natal mortality accounts for almost 40% of the estimated 9.7 million deaths of children under the age of five and for nearly 60 % of infant deaths. Women in Africa may face a lifetime risk of death during pregnancy and childbirth as high as one in 26, compared with only one in 7300 in developed regions.
Globally, HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age. Women are disproportionately affected by HIV; nearly 60% of people living with HIV worldwide and in Eastern Africa are women.
We are deeply concerned that women and young women living with HIV in Eastern Africa face maternal health related challenges that include the following:-
Even with advances in medicine, which now allow women living with HIV to give birth to babies who are not infected with the virus, women living with HIV face harsh judgment, stigma and harassment from the community and healthcare providers when they make their sexual reproductive choice of having a child. This amounts to women being denied essential medication, services and rights, the same medication, services and rights that prompted HIV infection for them and are now impacting further their lives because of living with HIV. This has led to women living with HIV to shun away from the health care units when they make their reproductive choices.
Women and young women living with HIV face violation of their sexual reproductive health and rights ranging from recurrent abuses from the health care workers, lack of access to care, treatment and support; to inadequate sexual and reproductive health information and services that are critical to women and safe motherhood throughout their lives.
Healthcare providers' negative attitudes, recurrent abuses in healthcare services, the failure to respect confidentiality, denial of information that drive away young pregnant women just discovering their status particularly young women living with HIV who are seeking treatment leading to poor maternal and child health.
Pregnant women who seek services not being able to access treatment, care and support such as Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission (PMTCT). Young women living with HIV experience stigma and negative attitudes from health service providers especially when they tell them that an HIV positive woman is not supposed to get pregnant. Therefore some pregnant women will go away and never come back for Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission and safe-delivery’.
Young women not being able to access Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) in cases of rape, instead they often experience mistreatment. This is coupled with limited access to youth friendly Sexual Reproductive Health & Rights (SRHR) services that have potential negative implications on child and maternal health.
Women living with HIV including young women in Eastern Africa deserve better, it is women who can save this world. Maternal and child mortality in our region; is preventable. This requires full and meaningful participation of women including young women living with HIV in key decision making processes that affect our lives; and the international community moving from commitments to actions and allocating resources to SRHR programmes and to women groups and organisations.
As we celebrate the International Women’s Day,
· We call upon our governments to urgently and effectively respond to the sexual and reproductive health needs and rights of women and young women living with HIV, in accordance with the African Women’s Protocol.
· We call upon all women living with HIV wherever you are to continue advocating ensuring that policies and laws such as those criminalizing the transmission of HIV and sexual minorities are reviewed and improved upon. Such laws and policies increase violence and abuses against women living with HIV while legalizing their discrimination.
· Recognizing that the voices of young women and women living with HIV are critically lacking in policy-making, consequently their issues are not addressed effectively, with dramatic consequences on attaining the gender equality and Millennium Development Goals, we call upon the International community, our governments and civil society organisations to meaningfully involve young women living with HIV at policy and decision making tables.
Women living with HIV in Eastern Africa call upon African Heads of States to live up to their commitments to women and girls, by allocating the much needed resources and capitalizing on women living with HIV in terms of their expertise of sexual and reproductive health and rights.
The specific realities faced by women, young women and girls living with HIV with regards to their sexual and reproductive Health needs and rights, maternal health must be addressed in order to achieve Universal Access and the Millennium Development Goals.
Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities, Women living with HIV want Progress Now! End Maternal and Child Mortality!
For further information please contact Lillian Mworeko, ICW Eastern Africa Regional Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or mobile nr: (+256392947313).and Rukia ahmed farah +254-722767745
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