We are now 40 years into the HIV epidemic and although many gains have been made we still see the same vulnerability of women to HIV, but we also see some way forward in terms of HIV as an entry point to affect the changes we need around inequalities including gender inequalities. 

The next global AIDS strategy must push governments, the UN and donors especially the Global Fund to address inequities through a woman centred approach that addresses the reality faced by ALL women. We believe that the HIV response can be catalytic and address deeply rooted socio-cultural gender norms that create more vulnerabilities and marginalisation. For this to happen the HIV response needs to truly be women-centred and rights-based. The next UNAIDS strategy cannot move forward based on a single set of global targets without moving forward all the other pieces around women’s lives that are not related to biomedical approaches.  

On 27 July 2020, the W4GF Strategy Working Group met for three-hour working session to influence and help define a Global AIDS Strategy that upholds women’s rights in all our diversity. This is important as the Global Fund Strategy is aligned to existing international targets set by partners such as UNAIDS.

Many of the issues raised by the group show that the identified challenges and required shifts go beyond the HIV response and is more about gender at the societal level. We believe the HIV response can be a catalyst for much needed real change in the lives of women. Some of the patterns that emerged from the discussion included:

  • Persistent laws and policies that are not women-centred, nor protective for women. Even when laws are meant to protect women this does not always result in societal change or point of care. Investments in women HIV services without investments in societal change on gender equity are not giving results – they do not reduce HIV vulnerability.
  • There is not enough focus on addressing gender-based needs and social norms to prevent violence against women.
  • The treatment and prevention divide must end. We must ensure that there are different prevention options for women in all their diversity.
  • The key populations versus women divide must stop. We all face vulnerabilities and we all have a right to access services we need. As noted at the top of this document women are diverse and this includes women who are young, gay, women who engage in sex worker, women who use drugs and transgender women. All women are women, and all women deserve the same rights as anyone in society.
  • The HIV response can be transformative and can be a catalyst – we just need to transform HIV-gender blind actions through women-centred HIV actions.
  • We require a data revolution that responds to our diverse realities – the current status quo around how data is collected and how it influences programming needs to change. The way that the world is working with indicators is harming communities as they are too rigid and do not measure the qualitative aspects of the difference services are making.

To read the whole report, please follow this link Women4GlobalFund UNAIDS Strategy Focus Group Discussions report – FINAL

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