UN Women supports networks of HIV-positive women and works to highlight the contributions and priorities of women living with or affected by HIV and AIDS. One example of this work is a partnership in 2009 with the European Commission on a global programme that focuses on promoting the leadership of HIV-positive women’s groups and gender equality advocates. The programme aims to ensure that gender equality priorities are identified, realized and budgeted in national HIV and AIDS responses. In countries across the globe, UN Women contributes by integrating a gender equality perspective into the plans and policies developed by national AIDS councils.
UN Women also works to promote learning and knowledge-sharing on women and HIV and AIDS, and has produced and supported the publication of a number of reports, guides and capacity building tools. In partnership with Development Connections, UN Women launched a global virtual course in July, 2009, on “Empowerment, HIV and Violence against Women,” adapted from a previous course for Latin America and the Caribbean. The course aims to develop the competences of staff working in governmental agencies and NGOs to respond to challenges related to the integration of these twin epidemics in public policies and interventions. UN Women and the Athena Network conducted an extensive global review of existing documentation on gender and HIV and AIDS, as well as in-depth interviews with key stakeholders, the findings of which were released at the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City.
Together with UN partners and civil society organizations, including HIV-positive women’s groups, UN Women supported the integration of gender equality priorities in the Nigerian National Strategic Framework for HIV and AIDS 2005-2009. UN Women and its partners have since put in place a Gender Manager to focus on gender equality priorities within the National Agency for the Control of AIDS. In Rwanda, UN Women supported the Association Rwandaise des Conseillers en Traumatisme (ARCT Ruhuka) to provide HIV and trauma counselling, and to empower women victims of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). ARCT Ruhuka has adopted a training manual for peer educators, and, in 2008, 30 community health providers received training on basic trauma counselling, including SGBV and HIV risks.
In Ghana, UN Women enhanced the participation and leadership of women living with HIV and AIDS through a gender and HIV and AIDS assessment, conducted by the UN, the Society for Women and AIDS in Africa, the Ghana AIDS Commission and the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs. The assessment will feed into national policies and programmes on HIV and AIDS. In Sierra Leone, UN Women collaborated with Action-Aid and UNAIDS to launch a national network of women living with HIV and AIDS. The network is already using skills acquired through UN Women training sessions to advocate for improved access to care and support services.
UN Women support for the Positive Women’s Network (PWN) in India has forged effective partnerships between the PWN, women’s groups, the National Commission for Women and the media. UN Women and other partners facilitated and supported consultations with women’s organizations, HIV-positive women’s groups and government departments to draft a set of Gender and HIV Policy and Action Plan Guidelines for the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO).
UN Women also worked with Indian Railways on an innovative outreach campaign for the 30,000 employees of its south-central branch, which is located in a region that NACO has identified as having a high HIV prevalence. The company is one of the world’s largest public sector employers and its workforce is highly susceptible to the virus because of its mobility. As a major component of the programme, trained peer counsellors circulated within the vast railway communities, offering gender-sensitive messages on HIV and AIDS prevention, care and treatment. A revolving fund also offered loans for essential expenses to women and families directly affected by HIV and AIDS. Funded and operated by Norway from 2003 to 2006, the programme is now run through the Women’s Empowerment and AIDS Prevention Society, which was set up to manage it, with support from UN Women and the Railway staff benefit fund.
In Cambodia, UN Women helped HIV-positive women create a network that now sends representatives to attend government policy sessions on HIV and AIDS, advise public health providers on how to make services accessible and friendly to women, and participate in the national programming deliberations for grants from the Global Fund on AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. UN Women and UNAIDS in Cambodia produced a report after undertaking assessments on the prevention of spousal transmission.
In Morocco, UN Women supported a network of women’s human rights NGOs to incorporate concerns related to fighting HIV and AIDS in their plans of action and advocacy. Consequently, the Ministry of Health is supporting the network to implement its work programme.
In Tajikistan, UN Women supported gender equality advocates who were successful in incorporating a gender perspective in the national response to AIDS. As a result of an extensive advocacy campaign, the National Coordination Council on the Prevention of HIV integrated specific gender actions into Tajikistan’s proposal to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which was approved for funding in 2008.
UN Women’s catalytic work on HIV and AIDS in Kyrgyzstan helped improve national legislation, as well as strengthen the capacity and change the behaviour and attitudes of civil servants, social workers, health care workers, women’s organizations and the media. This work was replicated by partners to cover the entire Central Asia region, with technical support from UN Women, to institutionalize a regional system of training and retraining of specialists in HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment.
Through sub-regional workshops held in the Caribbean, which included representatives from Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Guyana, Bahamas, Belize, Antigua, British Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos, Barbados, Grenada, Saint Vincent and Suriname, UN Women assisted national AIDS commissions in mainstreaming gender in national AIDS policies. In training workshops, government officials consulted with gender experts and systematically reviewed the gender implications of their national AIDS strategies. They identified gaps and learned to design responses to promote women’s rights in the context of HIV and AIDS.
UN Women, UNAIDS and other UN and civil society partners are supporting the development of regional policy guidelines for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Legal and Ethics Committee on the social protection of Caribbean sex workers’ rights. UN Women also supported a gender analysis of the Pan Caribbean Partnership’s Caribbean Strategic Framework on HIV and AIDS. The framework is an important regional instrument that shapes the development of national planning processes and informs the content of regional work supported by the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
In Barbados, UN Women provided technical support to help develop the National Strategic Policy and Action Plan on HIV that was accepted by Parliament in 2008. The final policy incorporates strategic actions to support women’s empowerment in HIV and AIDS programming. In Ecuador, UN Women seized an opportunity to support the Coalition of People Living with HIV and AIDS to establish an HIV-positive women’s commission to address their specific needs.