November 28, 2006

Letters For Life: World AIDS Day Awareness

Free Choice Saves Lives, a campaign of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, on the feminization of the AIDS crisis:

The face of HIV/AIDS is increasingly female. Numerous biological and social factors make women far more vulnerable to the virus than men. More than half of all people living with HIV/AIDS today are women. In the hardest hit countries, five or six girls between the ages of 15-24 are infected for every one boy.

The link between women's status and the HIV/AIDS pandemic is finally gaining widespread recognition. From Microsoft founder and philanthropist, Bill Gates, to Stephen Lewis, the U.N.'s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, world leaders and public health advocates are calling for changes in the way societies treat women and girls.

"Gender inequality is driving the [HIV/AIDS] pandemic, and we will never subdue the gruesome force of AIDS until the rights of women become paramount in the struggle."
- Stephen Lewis, U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa

The goals of the Access=Life campaign include ending violence against women, promoting gender equity, and calling for universal access to prevention, treatment and support for women and girls living with or threatened by HIV/AIDS.

They're collecting signatures to send to Rep. Pelosi, asking her to take the lead in fighting for the social equity that can protect women and girls from the circumstances that leave them more vulnerable to AIDS. They're trying to collect 25,000 letters to send to leaders in Washington D.C. by Dec. 1st, World AIDS Day, so I hope you'll add your name to their efforts.

I got to hear Stephen Lewis speak on a panel about the AIDS epidemic at the 2004 AAAS conference in Seattle, along with other experts on the crisis. This vignette from his talk has ever since summed up for me the tragedy of the disease's toll in Africa:

... Because AIDS hits the sexually active, it's decimating the working age population in severely affected countries. This was hammered home by the story of a family his team visited in Uganda. A man and his two wives, all over 70 years of age, had raised nine children. Eight were dead, one was dying. They'd left a total of 38 grandchildren in the care of these three elderly people. ...

Over at Pandagon, Amanda examines the freedom-is-slavery mentality about sex held by some in the US that poses a significant obstacle to leveraging the resources of the richest nation on the planet to stop the spread of this horrible disease.

Posted by natasha at November 28, 2006 10:26 AM | Women | Technorati links |