Gender Equality and Health | 02.12.2014
WORLD AIDS DAY 2014: Why a gender-conscious response to HIV is still necessary
It’s been 10 years since the World AIDS Day theme focused on women and girls, but what progress have we made in reducing the burden of HIV amongst this population? Leading up to World AIDS Day, HEARD, in collaboration with CAPRISA, the South African Medical Research Council, K-Rith, Health Systems Trust and the University of KwaZulu-Natal hosted a panel discussion focusing on women, girls and HIV.
The aim of the discussion was to discuss different challenges women and girls face drawing from biomedical science, social and behavioural studies, alongside community perspectives on the persistent vulnerability of women and girls to HIV acquisition, a challenge embedded in multiple health, cultural and development issues. Gender equality and health researcher Andrew Gibbs spoke on a known driver of HIV – gender-based violence. He questioned whether research could achieve greater change by approaching gender equality and HIV interventions differently, particularly by changing social norms.
“There is a need for radical restructuring of gender relationships to address women’s social and economic dependence on men and eliminate gender-based violence, especially in domestic settings.”
“Moralising and scare tactics will not support women in thinking more critically about their sexual health and relationships. We need to support them to understand their choices. Reshaping the broader context in which they live is not glamorous or easy, but it starts with building women’s economic empowerment – beyond craft projects and skills transfer – into securing sustainable work opportunities in their immediate environment,” said Gibbs.
Gibbs said there is a need for radical restructuring of gender relationships to address women’s social and economic dependence on men and eliminate gender-based violence, especially in domestic settings. “The key aspects of such programming are changing social norms and expectations, targeted livelihood interventions for young women and girls, and working effectively with men and boys towards stronger perceptions of gender equality. The centrality of women’s and girls’ needs and recognising the danger of reinforcing the dominant masculine role is crucial when working with men and boys. We also need to recognise the danger of reinforcing the dominant masculine roles. Perpetuating the role of men as the protectors of society and family displaces the notion of men and women as equal partners. Implementation of the Stepping Stones and Creating Futures project in urban settings has demonstrated promise in altering attitudes about gender norms and strengthening livelihoods in the context of poverty.”
Gibbs was joined on the panel by Quarraisha Abdool Karim (CAPRISA), Neetha Morar (MRC), Sibongile Shezi (Health Systems Trust), and Jenniffer Moroa (K-Rith).