"Oh! This One is Infected!" Women, HIV and Human Rights in the Asia-Pacific Region, Expert meeting on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights in Asia-Pacific, Bankok, 23-24 March 2004
Publication Date: Mar 2004
Women under 20 years old are up to ten times more vulnerable to HIV infection than men. They are also significantly more likely to experience AIDS-related discrimination after a positive diagnosis. Women are often blamed for bringing HIV into the family and may be subjected to violence by their spouse or in-laws. A study of AIDS-related discrimination in Asia found that over ten percent of women had lost financial support from family members since being diagnosed as HIV positive, compared with 4.6 percent of men, while 12 percent of HIV positive women had been forced to change their place of residence, compared with 6 percent of men. This paper sets out to explain why a majority of women in the Asia-Pacific region are disproportionately at risk of HIV infection; it documents examples of discriminatory attitudes and actions against HIV positive women in the region; and concludes with recommendations of action by and for all levels of society to counteract these human rights violations. For example, equitable access to barrier methods of contraception (which protect against pregnancy and the transmission of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV) is needed - including the female condom which should be better promoted and subsidized. Mandatory testing of pregnant women must stop immediately and be replaced with voluntary couple counselling and testing; and health staff need support to think about their own HIV status, and assurances that they will not lose their jobs if they are found to be HIV positive.