Women in AIDS – Women in solidarity to celebrate their fight against HIV/AIDS
KUALA LUMPUR, 14 August 2005 - A quiet revolution has taken place over the last 17 years in Malaysia, as women have mobilised themselves in leading the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Operating from various professional platforms, these pioneers have been catalysts for significant achievements in the HIV/AIDS movement; from policy for free treatment for HIV/AIDS infected children, support for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS, and free programs for prevention from mother-to-child transmission. Their milestones have paved the way for much needed new approaches, in bringing about change for the better.
In recognition of their successes in the HIV/AIDS movement, the Malaysian UN Country Team hosted a dinner event, entitled Women in AIDS, in conjunction with a visit by Dr. Nafis Sadik, Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General and his Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Asia.
“UNICEF wanted to take the opportunity of Dr. Nafis Sadik’s visit to celebrate the women in Malaysia who have been working for many years towards the fight against HIV/AIDS. It’s an opportunity to renew our commitment, to be reinspired to go back into the long battle that lies ahead”, said Gaye Phillips, UNICEF Representative to Malaysia.
AIDS, a growing threat to women
Although great strides have been made to improve the lives of people affected and infected with HIV/AIDS in Malaysia, more needs to be achieved if the country is to attain it’s 6th Millennium Development Goal – to halt and reverse the spread of HIV / AIDS by 2015. According to Ministry of Health statistics, the proportion of Malaysian women reported with HIV has increased dramatically in the last decade, approximately by 500%, from 104 reported cases in 1994 to 696 cases in 2004.
According to Dr. Nafis Sadik, Malaysia needs to ensure appropriate programs to address the special problems associated with women's vulnerability to HIV/AIDS.
“Malaysia must ensure that gender equality and empowerment of women programs go hand-in-hand with the HIV/AIDS prevention program”, said Dr. Nafis Sadik. “We need to get more women involved. We need to get them to work together and to get their voices heard by the Government and the policy makers.”
Time to come out
This call to action has already begun to take form, through Malaysians who have previously never spoken out before. A recent statement made by a religious leader suggesting that all HIV-positive people be isolated on an island galvanised a young HIV-positive woman to come forward in a move to allow her voice and concerns be heard.
“I felt it was time to come out. I needed to fight my own battles and have my voice heard. I needed to prove that anyone could get infected, even married women like me", said Kiren, a professional Malaysian woman living with HIV. Kiren, who's husband died of AIDS a 'few years back' has several times been confronted with society's stigma and prejudice since "coming out".
As HIV/AIDS creeps its way into Malaysian homes, there is a greater need for more people to take bold steps and to pledge renewed commitment to the preservation of life.
It is individuals like Kiren, who are the new leaders in the movement, giving women in Malaysia the strength and courage to not only come forward but to also continue their fight against HIV/AIDS.