Stories

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This World AIDS Day, there is progress around the globe to celebrate, in access to HIV testing, life-saving treatment and care. We are seeing increased recognition of the role that gender norms play in the HIV response, leading to improved HIV prevention methods, targeted HIV policies and programmes, and access to comprehensive sexuality education for women and girls. There are, however, also strong alarm bells that this progress is increasingly unequal.
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In a statement for World AIDS Day, 1 December, UN Women highlights the need to accelerate action towards gender equality, ending violence, supporting leadership and the full enjoyment of their human rights for all young women and girls, especially those affected by both coronavirus and HIV
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On World AIDS Day (1 December), we spoke to survivors and community changemakers in South Africa who as part of UN Women’s HeForShe community-based initiative and a joint UNAIDS programme are engaging men and women to reject violence against women and seek HIV testing and treatment.
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In a joint op-ed for International Day if the Girl Child, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima, Director General of UNESCO Audrey Azoulay, Executive Director of UNFPA Natalia Kanem and Executive Director Henrietta Fore highlight the need for vital investments and transformational policy shifts so that all of Africa’s girls can enjoy all of their rights to education and empowerment.
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Dilyora Mammadova, a woman living with HIV from Tajikistan, is working with affected women and high-risk groups, helping identify new cases of local HIV infection, supporting women with the same diagnosis, and bringing them medicine. Through a joint UN Women- UNAIDS project for women living with HIV in 2019, her small sewing workshop and her business proposal received funding. Nowadays, due to the high demand for COVID-19 protection masks, Mammadova is supplying masks.
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As the Executive Director of Uganda Network of Young People Living with HIV/AIDS (UNYPA) Nicholas Niwagaba is a Ugandan Health advocate who works to improve the quality of life for young people living with HIV in Uganda. Nicholas leads a youth movement to increase access to quality sexual and reproductive health services and information and to create an enabling environment for young people living with HIV.
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The contribution of women and girls, particularly those living with HIV, is indispensable in the HIV response at the community level. Women and girls provide critical care for family and community members living with HIV, and help ensure they start and stay on treatment.
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Yana Panfilova, 22, is a Ukrainian HIV positive activist and co-founder as well as chairwoman of Teenergizer, an organization that supports and advocates for the rights of HIV positive youth in Europe and Central Asia (Ukraine, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia). She was also nominated as a heroine for UN Women’s Generation Equality campaign in Ukraine.  
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In a statement for World AIDS Day, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, calls for strong commitments towards ending the epidemic, prioritizing the needs of young women in national HIV policies and local actions, and supporting women and girls to feel confident and empowered to demand that their HIV and other health needs are met.
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In this short film, Elena Vdovenko, a social worker at the Kyiv Centre for HIV-positive youth, talks about how her HIV+ status and the domestic violence she survived informs her work with women and youth every day.
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Svitlana Moroz is a Ukrainian women’s rights activist living with HIV. She is one of the founders of the Union of Women of Ukraine affected by HIV “Positive Women” and since 2013 she has coordinated activities for the Eurasian Women’s Network on AIDS. As thousands of HIV activists from around the world attend the 22nd International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam from July 23 to 27, Moroz spoke to UN Women about the importance of women’s voices in the conference and beyond.
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Every four minutes, three young women become infected with HIV (UNAIDS Right to Health report, 2017). They are clearly not enjoying their right to health, nor will they, until we are able to reverse the inequalities and discrimination that fuel HIV spread. Those whose health and future are currently least prioritized must become our focus, if we are to achieve the changes we seek.
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Baby Rivona is a legend in Indonesia, loved widely, as well as feared by some. A passionate advocate of women living with HIV and AIDS, she is as often seen on the world stage, as she is the many districts and villages of her home country. Her mission is to guarantee access to treatment, services, and a life free of stigma and discrimination for women living with HIV and AIDS.
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In Ukraine, 35 per cent of women living with HIV have experienced violence since the age of 15. Many women cannot definitively say that they have experienced violence, because they have suffered and witnessed gender-based violence through generations and it has been normalized. For women living with HIV, lack of awareness, shelters and support services pose additional challenges. Peer-support groups and the National Women’s Forum on HIV, supported by UN Women is bringing awareness, action and new beginnings for HIV positive women survivors of violence.
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Itumeleng Komanyane is the International Programme Manager at Sonke Gender Justice in South Africa, which advances gender equality and addresses HIV and AIDS across eighteen countries in Africa. At Sonke, she coordinated a multi-country project funded by the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (managed by UN Women on behalf of the UN system) from 2011-2014, which focused on increasing support among men and boys to end gender based violence in Kenya, Rwanda and Sierra Leone. Recently, Komanyane attended the 61st session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, the global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.
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This year, World Health Day, 7 April, focuses on the issue of depression. Impacting millions of people around the world, depression is the leading cause of illness and disability across the world, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
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Originally from Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Luiza Karimova left her son with her family and travelled to Osh, Kyrgyzstan to find work. In Kyrgyzstan, she was sold into sex slavery and trafficked into Dubai. After 18 months, she was arrested and sent to jail. Today, Karimova works with Podruga, an organization based in Osh, Kyrgyzstan, which is supported by UN Women. Podruga works to end violence against women and assists women subjected to sex and drug trafficking.
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A series of entrepreneurship trainings developed by UN Women has equipped women living with HIV and AIDS with essential social and economic skills in Karamoja, Uganda.
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Chum Sopha, now 29, works with HIV-positive women in Roka Village in north-west Cambodia.
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On World AIDS Day, we highlight the story of Natalia Minayeva from Kazakhstan, who was imprisoned in the so-called “AIDS barracks” and now works to protect the rights of HIV-positive women.