PRETORIA, 05 March 2020 – The South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) welcomes the UNAIDS Report: ‘We’ve got the Power – Women, adolescent girls and the HIV response’ launched earlier today by the UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima in Johannesburg.
The publication of this report is an important milestone in telling the story of the united global efforts towards women empowerment and the achievement of an AIDS-free generation. It is a reminder of the successes achieved, but more starkly, the prevalent challenges of gender inequality in our communities.
These challenges include limited economic opportunities for women, continued high levels of stigma and discrimination and, astounding levels of gender-based violence – all of which are inextricably linked to high numbers of HIV infections, poor retention of female learners in school and high rates of early and unintended pregnancies, to name but a few.
Through the many injustices and inequalities women face; they still manage to protect themselves from infection; and for those infected to stay on treatment – this is demonstrated by the reduced incidence and death rates reflected in the report.
If we are to listen to women, provide political leadership and act on their demands, it is certain that we can fast track epidemic control. Our view is that there should be:
- adequate investment in women-led interventions
- person-centred service provision and
- reliable and available commodities.
The report highlights the need to create economic opportunities, challenge patriarchy, ensure legal protection of women and offer more choices to ensure universal health coverage.
The report guides countries to focus on improving sexual and reproductive health knowledge, increasing access to sexual and reproductive health services, upholding the rights of women in their diversity and eliminating stigma and discrimination.
Through SANAC, we will support the country efforts to implement a coordinated and holistic response to women and adolescents, including the scale up of comprehensive sexuality education (CSE).
We acknowledge the substantial financial resources committed by the South African government, the US Government and the Global Fund to implement and scale up programmes for women and adolescents in South Africa.
We applaud UNAIDS for the continued guidance and partnership in gender equality and the HIV response.
The launch of this report should be a day of introspection and spark ambition. What we do with this report will determine where we get to in 2030.