Africa pleads for change in HIV strategy

December 7, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 7- HIV positive women in Africa are now asking their governments and donors to direct HIV/AIDS funding to the grass root levels.

Beatrice Were an official with Oxfam GB South Africa on Monday said donors should focus on giving small grants to women directly as opposed to channelling the funds through traditional agencies that over see the allocation of HIV related funds.

Ms Were who was speaking to journalists during an international conference that focused on responding to gender based violence, HIV/AIDS and conflict said the money would be better used if it reached the women directly.

“If we changed the way donors channel their money so that instead of giving money to the big agencies that determine or do the analysis for women, we move and give the power to the women; to do their own analysis of their issues, determine what their needs are and to decide what they want to do. This would be more beneficial,” she said.

“The money has been going to big institutions that don’t actually reach these women.”

Executive Director Urgent Action Fund Jessica Nkuuhe stated that the small grants would empower women economically and reduce HIV infections among women.

“A woman who is not empowered cannot negotiate safe sex. All we will be doing (if we don’t empower women) is treating. Many of these women know that the men in their lives have many sexual partners but since they are poor, they cannot move out of that home and cannot negotiate safe sex. However when she’s rescued from poverty she is able to negotiate at the family and community level rather than sitting back and waiting to die,” she explained.

Ms Were added that the number of HIV infected people in Africa continues to rise because the ordinary citizens (who were most at risk of contracting the virus) could not access the funds set aside to help them.

“People are not being reached in Africa. That is why Africa makes the biggest statistics on HIV year in year out. This is also why women constitute the high number of new infections every year,” she said.

Ms Were noted that funds allocated to Africa to fight the HIV pandemic were not enough although Africa had the highest number of HIV infected persons.

“Most of the time the focus is on Africa as the continent that carries 71 percent of the AIDS burden. However most of the time the response is generalised; while donors believe that Africa gets a lot of money in terms of AIDS response, when you go per capita (relating to women) you find that that money has not actually addressed the specific needs of women with HIV,” she said.

She also stated that there was need for government to address the issues of HIV, gender based violence and conflict collectively rather than independently.

“We find that the intersection of gender based violence, HIV and conflict are not being addressed. HIV has always been addressed as a vertical issue as if it stands alone in a vacuum; it is not being linked to the other issues,” she said.

Ms Were also proposed that donors stop treating Africa wholly and to instead focus on the needs of each specific country.

“Africa is treated as homogenous while the needs of the different countries vary when it comes to HIV and conflict. Some have more mature epidemics while others don’t. Therefore in terms of addressing the triple pandemics (HIV, conflict and gender based violence), it is important for donors to understand the different needs of each African country,” she proposed.

Over the past 30 years at least half of the countries in Africa have experienced conflict resulting in the collapse of political and socio economic structures, further complicating the post conflict reconstruction agenda. In situations of conflict, sexual and gender based violence has been used to exercise power, humiliate, exact revenge on opponents and systematically destroy the fabric of society to dehumanise women and communities.

In these contexts the risk of contracting and spreading HIV/AIDS is heightened. While there has been significant increase in funding for the fight against HIV/AIDS there is a gap in funding the said intersection.


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