In a victory for women's health rights advocates, the White House announced two weeks ago a working group that will address the intersection of HIV/AIDS, violence against women and girls, and gender-related disparities. The Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) recently met to address the intersection of women and violence and HIV. Given that at least 12 percent of HIV/AIDS infections among women in romantic relationships are a result of intimate partner violence (IPV), yet fewer than 10 percent of all HIV service providers routinely screen for intimate partner violence, both events mark a major strike against the HIV epidemic.
The White House also appointed Dr. Grant Colfax as the new director of the Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP). Dr. Colfax has already stated his concern that women account for 25 percent of new HIV infections, and that African American and Latina women are upwards of 30 times more likely to contract HIV than other women. His acknowledgment of the unacceptable health disparities among women of color is reassuring.
The challenge now is to move this working group and Dr. Colfax's words forward in a meaningful way.
With the upcoming International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) in Washington, D.C., the U.S. is poised to make a difference for women at home. We have been working toward integrating HIV, sexual and reproductive health, and gender-based violence services for women overseas. It's time we did the same at home. The administration has already stated it will take lessons learned from global AIDS programs to enhance our programs in the U.S.
And what better time to walk the talk and move forward with this course of action than this July, when women living with HIV from the U.S. and around the world will be in the nation's capital for AIDS 2012. Advocates are hoping President Obama will speak to the conference. I hope he does, and I hope he uses it as an opportunity to speak directly to women living with HIV from the Global South and the U.S. I hope he commits to putting women's human rights at the center of the U.S. agenda to create an AIDS-free generation at home and abroad. I also hope he will come to the conference and listen to women. Yes, we need promises of human rights. But this administration's commitment will only be authentic if it is informed by the voices of women most impacted by this epidemic.
Listen to women. We can't create an AIDS-free generation without them.