Press Release (Immediate) Date line: Abuja, December 1, 2005 UNIFEM calls for human rights including gender equality to inform the discussions and outcomes of ICASA 2005 (4th – 9th December) The Regional Programme Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), Ms. Florence Butegwa has called on all stakeholders in the fight against HIV/AIDS to ensure that human rights, including gender equality inform discussions and outcomes at the International Conference on AIDS and STDs in Africa (ICASA 2005). Making this call at a Press Conference in Abuja while intimating the media with UNIFEM activities at ICASA 2005, Ms. Butegwa emphasized that proper consideration of the human rights and gender implications of every intervention was necessary to achieve the desired impact in HIV/AIDS prevention and management. This is because HIV/AIDS affects and impacts the various gender differently and as such the human rights of all with the aim to achieve equality should be an issue for consideration in the aspect of prevention, control and treatment. UNIFEM wants to particularly highlight 2 areas during the conference as follows: 1. Positive women – generally lack a voice especially as a group to call attention to and press for issues that concern and affect them. These issues include amongst others stigma and discrimination, violence against women, inequality in access to treatment, care and support. UNIFEM is therefore organizing sessions for women living with HIV to discuss these issues before and during the conference and also strengthen their skills to organize, advocate and network within and among countries of West Africa. Positive women from Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Gambia, Liberia, Senegal and other African countries will have a pre-ICASA session and other sessions throughout the Conference. 2. In Africa the fraction of people living with the virus or with AIDS that are cared for in hospitals is very small. The majority are in their homes, and the responsibility for caring for them falls on women and girls, due to the social division of labour at family level. These carers are grandmothers, mothers, wives or daughters. They combine the caring work with providing food, child raring, and all other gender roles ascribed to women, with significant negative implications for food security, their own health and family livelihoods. Often they are themselves living with the virus! National responses to HIV and AIDS rarely focus on these women and girls, yet they are the backbone of the HIV and AIDS management system. To highlight this important but neglected issue UNIFEM will launch off a campaign with the theme “Who Cares for the Care Giver” on 4 December at 9.00 am. (For venue, contact Olasunbo Odebode) UNIFEM wishes to acknowledge with appreciation the support from the CIDA funded Nigeria AIDS Response Fund (NARF) and the partnership with Action Aid International. Finally UNIFEM greatly appreciates your presence at this press briefing and invites members of the press to highlight issues of gender and human rights during the conference. Different UNIFEM staff and partners, including positive women will be available for interview sessions. Please contact Mrs. Nkechi Nwakwo for the necessary arrangements.
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