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Letter: AIDS pandemic driven by gender inequality

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Note: The statements, views, and opinions contained in this letter to the editor are those of the author and are not endorsed by, nor do they necessarily reflect, the opinions of The Republic.

From: Ann Jones


Received: Nov. 28

Dec. 1 is World AIDS Day. It is a day the entire world acknowledges the global challenges that confront us in ending the tragic pandemic. While we have achieved truly significant scientific advances, a national strategy and effective care and treatment programs, the battle continues to rage. There are 34 million people currently living with HIV and AIDS with 2.5 million new infections and 1.7 million lives claimed every year by AIDS. Seven million people still remain in need of treatment.

In the annals of international response, women have been unconscionably neglected. In many places in the world, the AIDS pandemic is driven by gender inequality. Even after more than 30 years, women are still marginalized with devastating consequences.

Firstly, the global prevention of vertical transmission has been largely focused on saving the infant, while the HIV positive mother has been merely an addendum. Secondly, adolescent girls have little to no access to sexual and reproductive health care. A travesty, indeed. Thirdly, sexual violence, the brutality of rape, as well as sexual trafficking, transmits the virus in large numbers. The brazen and terrifying exercise of male power is the ultimate in gender inequality! Finally, the major disposition of funding for HIV and AIDS worldwide is directed by men. The role of patriarchy continues to ignore or oppress the lives of women.

What makes this treatment of women so horribly painful is the way women sustain entire communities. They care for the sick, till the fields, tend the family, care for the orphans and generally are the life-blood of the society. Many are grandmothers whose own health status may be fragile. Yet they doggedly persevere.

How can you help with such a huge global challenge? In an important way, you can make a difference in helping to reverse some of these ugly realities.

Buy some glazed pecans from the Granny Connection, a local organization that works to raise funds for a community-based pediatric AIDS program in Zambia.

Attend the Arts for AIDS event Saturday at Mill Race Center. This wonderfully spirited affair will assist one Haitian and four African programs serving AIDS-affected families.

Wear a red ribbon demonstrating care and compassion for those living with HIV and AIDS.

Finally, hold our legislators and policy makers accountable for supporting and empowering women as long as gender inequality continues to drive the pandemic.

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