Over 120 ambassadors, ministers, parliamentarians, advocates, youth and media gathered today at the International Peace Institute (IPI) for a high-level policy forum, Prevention and Protection Save Lives: Girls, Women and HIV, co-hosted by Women Deliver, IPI, the Permanent Mission of Norway to the United Nations and Family Care International. This week’s High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS at the UN marks 30 years of global efforts to stop the AIDS epidemic, and today’s forum was an innovative and energizing discussion on how far we have come, what challenges lay before us and what the road forward will look like. 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.
After a welcoming by IPI’s Director, Terje Rød-Larsen, HRH Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway set the scene by highlighting the importance of not only prioritizing young people, but working with them as key change-makers. UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador and recording artist Annie Lennox then reflected on how in many parts of the world, women are made to feel worthless. She highlighted 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. She gave a rousing call for action and for those who have been fighting to keep up efforts, as our work is not complete. Men are needed as partners in this battle, and as Lennox stated, “feminism is not a dirty word”.
The panel discussion was moderated by UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador James Chau. Panelists discussed the UNSG’s recent report reflecting the agency-wide goal of reaching zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. Purnima Mane, Deputy Executive Director (Programs) of UNFPA emphasised 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, former President, mother and now head of UN Women to demonstrate the connections between integration and both gender equity and women’s rights. Along the topic of rights, Carmen Barroso, Regional Director of International Planned Parenthood Western Hemisphere Region (IPPF/WHR), pointed to the link between health and rights, and spoke on some of IPPFWHR’s programs on the ground providing information and access to condoms. Youth advocate Lindsay Menard-Freeman of the Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS (GYCA) 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. “We know what works,” Jan Beagle, Deputy Executive Director of UNAIDS pointed out, and reminded us to keep in mind socio-cultural ideas and how they play into girls’ and women’s ability to make decisions to stay healthy and HIV-free.
Ambassador Morten Wetland of Norway closed out the event by demonstrating the commitment of his country and others to saving the lives of girls and women, with the hopes that all present, whether in person or watching online, would carry with them the discussions heard today. This work can not be done in isolation. By working together, across agencies, sectors, countries and communities, we can realize a world free of AIDS.
Watch the event:
- To learn more, please see our Fact Sheet on Girls, Women and HIV.
- Read the HRH Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway's full speech.
- View more photos from the event.
All photos by IPI/Preston Merchant.