Helping women living with HIV claim their rights


women living_w_hiv

"Women widowed by AIDS or living with HIV may face property disputes with in-laws, complicated by limited access to justice to uphold their rights. Regardless of whether they themselves are living with HIV, women generally assume a disproportionate burden of care for others who are sick from or dying of AIDS, along with the orphans left behind. This, in turn, can reduce prospects for education and employment. Acknowledging these facts, training aimed to help women living with HIV to analyze their situations from gendered and rights-based perspectives as well as enable them to challenge discrimination against them and their children with strategic advocacy plans," Canadian Ambassador to Viet Nam, David Devine.

A significant proportion of new infections in Viet Nam are through intimate partner transmissions.

Intimate partner transmission is a major source of HIV infections among women in the country. More than half of women who tested positive at HIV testing and counselling sites between 2006 and 2010 reported their only possible exposure to HIV was through a husband or long-term partner.

To help address this challenge, over the past two years the UN has helped to empower women living with HIV to understand their rights and meaningfully engage in policy advocacy and decision-making processes to reduce stigma and discrimination and increase access to services.

Since 2014, UN Women and UNAIDS have jointly supported the network of women living with HIV in Viet Nam (VNW+) to enhance their capacities to know and claim their rights under the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). In particular, the project has seized opportunities that emerged from the periodic reporting mechanism of CEDAW.

Viet Nam was called for review for its combined seventh and eighth State party reports in July 2015 and for the first time, VNW+ participated in this process and jointly drafted the shadow report with 20 other civil society organizations. The report was submitted to the CEDAW Committee in June 2015 and resulted in a specific recommendation on the situation of women living with HIV (WLHIV) in the Committee's Concluding Observations. VNW+ is now taking part in the process to implement the Committee's recommendations in collaboration with the government and other CSOs.

Although the shadow report was not specifically devoted to issues relevant for women living with HIV, representation of women from a broad range of groups with a diversity of perspectives made the CSO networks more credible and powerful in presenting an alternative perspective from the national report. The drafting process of the report reached out to under-represented women's groups including WLHIV, women with disability, ethnic minority women, young women, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities to ensure an inclusive process reflecting the diverse perspectives and experiences of different groups of women. The findings and recommendations of the shadow report as well as CEDAW Concluding Observations were used to inform the rapid gender assessment jointly conducted by UN Women and the Viet Nam Authority of AIDS Control, Ministry of Health with technical support from UNAIDS.

Although they had relationships with provincial authorities, before joining the shadow report development, VNW+ only had limited opportunities and capacity to participate in national dialogues UN support to the network has helped scale up their policy advocacy through advocacy capacity building and convening government-civil society dialogues to facilitate participation in the policy and law making process. In fact, with UN's strong support, VNW+ was empowered to develop their advocacy plan and advocate for their legitimate rights. They also participated in generating strategic information for evidence-based advocacy to claim their rights.