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Migiro urges comprehensive approach to tackle ‘feminization of AIDS’

Migiro urges comprehensive approach to tackle ‘feminization of AIDS’

Asha-Rose Migiro and President Kibaki
United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro today called for a more broad-based effort to tackle the impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls.

“The factors that drive the feminization of AIDS cannot be addressed piecemeal. But to be honest, despite our best intentions, many of our activities remain rooted at project level: we have still to make the leap from project to programme, to achieve truly systemic change,” she told the International Women’s Summit meeting in Nairobi.

“We know what that change should look like: real, positive change that will give more power and confidence to women and girls,” she added, calling for steps to bolster education, carry out legal and social reforms, and promote awareness-raising among men.

Ms. Migiro advocated that “change that will free boys and men from cultural stereotypes and expectations, such as the belief that manhood comes from showing ‘who’s boss’ or from frequenting sex workers.”

This process, she emphasized, must include providing anti-retrovirals to prevent parent to child transmission, and microbicides, as they become available.

To have real impact, efforts must be guided by two key principles: accountability and a drive to achieve measurable results, she said, calling on participants to “set clear aims, and be prepared to be held accountable.”

Also addressing the Summit, Margaret Chan, Director-General of the UN World Health Organization (WHO), reviewed progress in combating AIDS, noting that last year the number of people in sub-Saharan Africa receiving life-saving drugs passed the 1 million mark. “That is proof of principle. It can be done,” she said.

She urged all concerned to work to ensure universal access to prevention, treatment, care, and support for all who need it by 2010.

At the same time, Dr. Chan pointed to the gravity of the spread of the disease. “We have seen considerable progress, but we are still running behind this devastating, unforgiving epidemic,” she said, pointing out that for every person starting treatment, another six people will become newly infected within a year.

To combat this trend, she called for pressing for universal access to treatment and care while working for prevention. “This is the only way to catch up.”

Organized by the World YWCA and the International Community of Women Living with HIV and AIDS, the Summit will run for three days and is being attended by 1,800 participants from all over the world.

In a separate development, the Deputy Secretary-General today visited the UN headquarters in Nairobi, where she attended a town hall meeting with UN staff. During the meeting, she highlighted the importance of feedback to headquarters from the field to improve the UN’s accountability and progress on the reform agenda.

She also paid a brief courtesy visit to Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and planted a tree at the headquarters complex before holding meetings with the senior management of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT).