Accra, Dec. 4, GNA –
The First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, said gender-based discrimination
significantly increases women’s vulnerability to the HIV/AIDS infection and
other Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
Such discrimination, she explained, also reduces their ability to protect themselves.
She has, therefore, urged African leaders and the international community to approach the fight against gender inequality more aggressively to reduce women’s vulnerability to HIV/AIDS on the African Continent and beyond.
Mrs Akufo-Addo was speaking at a satellite-symposia organised by the Organisation of African First Ladies for Development (OAFLAD) on the side-lines of the 20th International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) in Africa (ICASA) underway in Kigali, Rwanda.
More than 1,000 delegates from across Africa and beyond are attending the six-day conference, on the theme: “AIDS-Free Africa-Innovation, Community, and Political Leadership”.
Participants included world’s leading scientists, policymakers, activists, Persons Living with HIV (PLHIV), government leaders as well as international partners such as the World Health Organisation, the Global Fund, and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
The 2019 ICASA conference is aimed at promoting community, scientific, and technological innovations for ending AIDS as well as advocate for financing sustainable national health responses, political leadership, and accountability.
Mrs Akufo-Addo mentioned the limited or the lack of education for female children, emanating from household poverty, as a great disservice to womanhood, and that, in turn, limited their economic viability and ability to make informed decisions and choices, leaving females more vulnerable.
She said girls from poorer backgrounds were more likely to engage in jobs to improve the family income but in the end, due to their vulnerability, they were sometimes raped as they engaged with casual sex partners like employers and other financial supporters, thereby exposing them to HIV.
Early marriage, the First Lady said, was another way of exposing young girls to HIV and STI’s as they were married off most often to elderly men who were already infected or had multiple sexual partners.
Mrs Akufo-Addo, therefore, called for the concentration of efforts in educating the girl-child while providing income-generation training for young girls and women to make them self-reliant.
She said the ‘Rebecca Foundation’ had introduced the ‘Terema Initiative’; ‘Because I want to be’; and the ‘Learning to read, reading to learn’ among others to empower children to acquire quality education.
She said other young girls and women were also being supported with income-generating activities to make them self-sustaining.
Other First Ladies including Mrs Neo Jane Masisi, the First Lady of Botswana, Mrs Hinda Deby Itno, the First Lady of Chad, and Mrs Jeannette Kagame, the First Lady of Rwanda, all called for sustainable ways of ensuring that women and girls in Africa were given the needed push economically to enable them to make informed decisions when it came to sexual health.
The ICASA conference also aims at promoting a youth-driven and youth-friendly approach for an AIDS-free generation.
Participants are expected to advocate for strengthened health systems and multi-sectoral collaboration to integrate co-morbidities, emerging infections and Non-Communicable Diseases.
They would also focus on rethinking gender norms, human rights-based approaches and inclusion towards equitable and accessible HIV and AIDS services including Key Populations (KPs) such as Female Sex Workers.