Women are "agents of change" in confronting HIV and AIDS
On the 20th Anniversary of World AIDS Day, UNICEF encourages investments in their leadership to transform agendas and protect children from the harm of HIV.
KUALA LUMPUR, 4 December 2008 – On the 20th Anniversary of World AIDS Day, which falls officially on 1 December 2008, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) encourages more investments from all sectors of society to furnish women with the strength, resources and hope to be effective advocates and agents of change in confronting HIV and AIDS.
Speaking at the launch of the Ministry of Health and UNICEF Report 2008 titled “Women and Girls Confronting HIV and AIDS in Malaysia”, UNICEF Representative to Malaysia Mr. Youssouf Oomar stressed that empowering and encouraging women to be leaders in any HIV response must be the strategy of the future.
“Malaysia must ensure that gender equality and empowerment of women go hand-in-hand with HIV and AIDS prevention and care programmes”, said Mr. Youssouf. “We need to get more women involved. We need to get them to work together and to get their voices heard.”
Her Highness Dato’ Seri Tunku Puteri Intan Safinaz, the Princess of Kedah and Chair of the Sultanah Bahiyah Foundation received the Report from an HIV-positive mother Jamaliah binti Sulaiman. The Ministry of Health’s Director for Disease Control Division Dato’ Dr. Hasan Bin Abdul Rahman and Mr. Youssouf witnessed the presentation together with some 100 guests representing government agencies, foreign missions, non-government organisations, the private sector and the media.
The trend of new HIV infections occurring amongst women has risen alarmingly from 1.2% of total new cases in 1990, 9.0% in 2002, 10.8% in 2004 to 15% in 2006. The latest data from the Ministry of Health as of December 2007 indicates that this proportion is now 16%. Most HIV infections among women and girls in Malaysia have occurred through heterosexual sex, a large number of whom are housewives. This is a cause of concern as the vulnerability of women and children to HIV are directly linked to each other.
“The increasing feminisation of HIV in Malaysia is more than just an issue of preventing or controlling the spread of the virus. Instead, it requires us to understand and respond to the vulnerabilities and risks related to gender discrimination and inequality, cultural and religious norms and expectations, and economics,” said Mr. Youssouf. “Stigma in particular deserves special attention as it can hinder effective prevention, care and treatment efforts, possibly turning what could be a manageable chronic illness into a death sentence while perpetuating the spread of HIV.”
A multisectoral approach which combines the political will and resources of government agencies and the private sector together with the passion and dedication of non-government organisations, community-based organisations, women and youth organisations as well as faith-based organisations is required to tackle the underlying issues around risk behaviour and vulnerabilities.
Since the set-up of the country’s first National AIDS Task Force in 1985, the Government has made great strides to address the epidemic in Malaysia, introducing interventions that include a safe blood programme, the prevention-of-mother-to-child HIV programme, as well as free or highly subsidised treatment for HIV. The Government will continue to strengthen its response to HIV for the country to attain its 6th Millennium Development Goal – to halt and reverse the spread of HIV by 2015.
The Government’s commitment to support and protect women and children is evident in Strategy 4 of the National Strategic Plan on HIV/AIDS 2006-2010, which is dedicated specifically to these vulnerable populations. To further strengthen and enhance this strategy, the Report recommends, amongst others, the following:
“We must however not forget to ensure the involvement and engagement of men and boys in any of these interventions,” added Mr. Youssouf. “Programmes targeting women must embrace men as partners in order to support and develop the necessary structures and enabling environment which will shift women and girls from being mere beneficiaries of programmes to leaders and agents of change!”
.........................................................................................NOTE TO EDITORS & BROADCASTERS:
UNICEF “Women Unite” video documentary (5 mins 16 seconds)
About WORLD AIDS DAY 2008
About UNITE FOR CHILDREN, UNITE AGAINST AIDS
About UNICEF MALAYSIA
For more information:Indra Nadchatram, UNICEF Malaysia
(603) 2095 9157 • (+6) 013 3663452 • firstname.lastname@example.org
Shiao Eek, Tee, UNICEF Malaysia
Ministry of Health & UNICEF Report 2008
Women and Girls Confronting HIV and AIDS in Malaysia, 2008. Read
Women Unite! Speeches