Today is World AIDS Day. I thought I'd use this to 'thimble' to introduce fellow blogger Zoha Zee Kay. She's involved in a student research project called "HAAC" (HIV/AIDS Awareness Campaign). On her blog she says:
"I will be posting links about AIDS and HIV.Your opinions, participation and questions are welcomed.Note : This is a volunteer/independent student research project . It is not supported by any organization or people. But If anyone of you want to support and work for this cause with me, you are more then welcome... "
My thimble for Zoha is about war and violence how it has affected the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa.
You see, two thirds of the world's population who have HIV/AIDS are from Sub-Saharan Africa and about 59% of them are women.
Why are more women than men suffering from HIV/AIDS in Africa? AVERT, the international HIV/AIDS charity, says that:
"In many parts of Africa, as elsewhere in the world, the AIDS epidemic is aggravated by social and economic inequalities between men and women. Women and girls commonly face discrimination in terms of access to education, employment, credit, health care, land and inheritance. These factors can all put women in a position where they are particularly vulnerable to HIV infection."
In any country or culture where a woman has no power she has no ability to educate herself, no ability to protect herself, or seek medical care. She has no way to learn the truths about HIV, no way to stop men from using/abusing her and no way of getting help once she is infected... and
this is always worse in times of war, violence and conflict.
UNAIDS / UNFPA / UNIFEM state that:
"...women and girls are disproportionately vulnerable to HIV infection during conflict and post-conflict periods. This is not only because they are frequently sexually abused by various armed groups, but because they may be fleeing their homes, may have lost their families and their livelihood, and may have little or no access to health care.
Along the eastern border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, an ongoing civil war has destroyed lives, villages and livelihoods. Now the area is thought to be on the verge of a major HIV epidemic. Some 60 per cent of the militia who roam the countryside raping, torturing and mutilating thousands of women and girls are believed to be HIV-positive, and virtually none of the women have access to services and care. In Rwanda, during the 1994 genocide, hundreds of thousands of women were raped, many by men who were HIV-positive.
Adolescent girls are also prime targets for traffickers or militia groups. Worldwide, it is estimated that 800,000 to 900,000 people—women, men, girls and boys—are trafficked every year into forced labour and sexual exploitation... "Gender-based violence is now one of the leading factors for HIV infection.
The statistics and personal stories are truly heart-breaking, but Africa is fighting back and this "war" is one we all need to hear, applaud and support. All over Africa people are working hard to change those tragic statistics. Groups, people and charities - like mothers2mothers, who have 703 sites located in nine countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Ripples of Hope Rescue Centre in Kenya...
Change is happening - lives are being saved, but there's still a lot that needs to be done.
This is one war we really do need to keep on fighting.