‘Diamonds’ to spread HIV/AIDS awareness

August 13th, 2009 - 4:29 pm ICT by IBNS  

By Ranjita Biswas,

Bali, Aug 13 (IBNS) The role of HIV Positive women in the fight against HIV/AIDS is being increasingly recognized by policy makers, strategists and activists. This has been more than evident at the 9th ICAAP being held in Bali.

The launching of the book “Diamonds” sponsored by UNIFEM, East Asia, and UNAIDS, is one more testimonial to the fact of this increasing awareness. The book records the voice of women who are infected, sometimes due to no fault of theirs but through sexual transmission from partners who indulge in risky behavior.

Diamonds is a cluster of stories of women who have contacted the disease but have learnt to live with it after the initial trauma and now are finding a new platform to share their experiences to inspire
other women in similar circumstances. The book has been planned and scripted by Dr Susan Paxton, Advisor of APN+ and WAPN+.

By telling the stories of a selection of 11 women in the Asia-Pacific region, she has shown how from despair to hope these women have travelled –fighting back and living a full life and thus setting an example. A 25 -minute film on a few of these women bring to the fore the problems, the causes and the process of their empowersment. “

For example, here is Kirenjit Kaur of Malaysia , staff (APCASO) and a member of APN+ who was married off at the age of 17 by a traditionalist father in what is referred to as ‘arranged marriage’ in
the Indian context (Kaur’s family in originally from India) ; she soon discovered that her husband was already HIV positive and when he died sometime after , her in-laws blamed and mentally tortured her. From that stage she has emerged as an AIDS activist and is fighting for the rights of women in similar circumstances. “It’s important to talk about it- being positive in public for sensitization of the general
public,” she said.

At an oral session later, she argued for property rights of HIV Positive women, who are also sometimes single mothers and are in disadvantaged situations, and also a comprehensive health insurance
policy for them. Similar voices are documented from Narisa Eroles of the Phillippines, Huynh Nhu Thanh Huyen from Vietnam, Pheng Pharozin of Cambodia, etc. Their personal presence at the symposia’s discussion added to the need for heeding the opinion of Positive Women in the campaign against HIV/AIDS.

As Dr Prasada Rao Director, UNAIDS Regional Support Team, Asia-Pacific, points out there are an estimated 15 million women in Asia infected through their partners and there is an urgent need to give support to these women. Figures show that (Reports of the Commission on AIDS In Asia-2008) that although three out of four adults living in Asia are men, the proportion of women living with HIV has risen steadily- from 19% in 2000 to 24% in 2007.

Moreover, men engaging in paid sex form the biggest population group infected with HIV with an estimated 50 million women being wives of these high-risk men (AIDS Commission of Asia 2007).

It is in this context that voices of Positive women, their needs and importantly, their views form an important dialogue in the empowerment of women as a whole. The Diamonds project is such step in that direction.

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