IPI held a standing-room-only meeting on girls, women and HIV on June 8th with a high-level panel that featured HRH Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway, who highlighted the importance of prioritizing young people and working with them as key agents of change.
The policy forum, “Prevention and Protection Save Lives: Girls, Women and HIV” coincided with the United Nations’ meeting on HIV/AIDS, marking 30 years of global efforts to stop the AIDS epidemic. Over 120 ambassadors, ministers, parliamentarians, rights advocates, youth and media representatives filled IPI’s Trygve Lie Center for the event.
Also among those speaking was UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador and recording artist Annie Lennox, who emphatically outlined the contradictions between swift responses to epidemics in the developed world versus the ongoing AIDS epidemic, which primarily affects the marginalized and often voiceless: women in developing countries.
The forum was moderated by UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador James Chau. The UN Secretary-General’s Every Woman Every Child effort was particularly highlighted as a critical step forward in ensuring quality care for all girls and women, as well as collaborative efforts across sectors and throughout the world. Panelists discussed the UN Secretary-General’s recent report reflecting the agency-wide goal of reaching zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.
In her remarks, Purnima Mane, Deputy Executive Director (Programs) of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) emphasized that success in these areas requires the integration of maternal and reproductive health services with HIV/AIDS services, including the provision of information and of contraceptives.
Michelle Bachelet drew from her varied experiences as a doctor, mother, President of Chile and now Executive Director of UN Women to demonstrate the connections between integration and both gender equity and women’s rights.
Carmen Barroso, Regional Director of International Planned Parenthood Western Hemisphere Region (IPPF/WHR), pointed to the link between health and rights, and spoke about some of her organization’s programs on the ground providing information and access to condoms.
Youth advocate Lindsay Menard-Freeman of the Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS explained that prioritization of young people–and young women in particular–is especially critical, as young women are at most risk for contracting HIV and their input is needed in the development of policies and programs which will best serve them.
Jan Beagle, Deputy Executive Director of UNAIDS, discussed how sociocultural ideas play into girls’ and women’s ability to make decisions to stay healthy and HIV-free. “We know what works,” she said.
Closing out the event was Ambassador Morten Wetland of Norway, who demonstrated the commitment of his country and others to saving the lives of girls and women by expressing the hope that all present–whether in person or watching online–would carry some part of what they heard at the forum with them.