I hate to be such an old misery guts on a nice day like Father's Day.
But why is the news on AIDS still so terrible?
Why has a completely avoidable disease taken millions of women's lives and rendered children unwanted, unloved and uncared for? And why are so many babies still born with this disease?
I was reading about the still grim statistics on HIV and AIDS in Africa (particularly sub-Saharan Africa), China, Russia and other more impoverished nations (not to mention the problems we have with it in our own land) and the report listed the many reasons why this disease is still spreading so rapidly when there really isn't a good reason for another person on this planet to get infected.
A lot of it comes down to the lack of women's rights.
In so many countries, women are forced to work as sex slaves (I can't call these women and young girls prostitutes - whatever we many think of prostitution, there is often an element of choice and profit for the women in many cases. These other women and girls are slaves. I cringe at the term "child prostitute" - somehow it lends a ring of volunteerism). Many other women are forced into a life of polygamy where HIV can rapidly spread, and many others (think in the hundreds of thousands) are forced to have sex with their husbands after these men have had unprotected sex with prostitutes, other men, or are drug users.
For these many, many women, refusal means almost certain rape, if not death.
If these women had the same human and civil rights afforded to them as their male counterparts, they could live a life independent of rape, forced polygamy and independent of HIV/AIDS.
According to this report "AIDS remains the leading cause of death in Africa, and the overall rate of infection among women is rising more rapidly than among men. Of the 32.2 million people living with HIV globally, nearly 22.5 million of them are located in Africa's sub-Saharan nations. Half of all HIV infected people are adult women with 61 percent of them being located within these nations. In addition, 90 percent of all HIV positive children in the world are from these locations as well as 76 percent of those who die from AIDS annually."
Further more, Africa is not the only area of the world with high rates of infection -
"Other areas where the number of AIDS cases continues to increase are China, Russia, Indonesia and Ukraine. The increases in new infections are due to a number of factors including health workers exposing people by using infected needles and blood, polygamy, prostitution and homosexuality. According to Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS, the U.N. agency created in response to the epidemic, the increase in AIDS infections in China has been due to mass movements of temporary laborers, increases in disposable income of male worker, a rise in sexual encounters between men and the escalation of socioeconomic inequality driving poor women into prostitution."
While we look around our own lives and see more and more women as the high earners of their families, as laws against discrimination are tightened and enforced and as we empower our own daughters from birth, the reality is that an enormous chunk of our planet still view women as nothing more than chattel - baby breeders, maids and sexual servicers. Rather depressing in a world where we tout 'girl power' as an every day mantra, and where women are increasing their voice in our governments and corporations.
We have come very far! But our fellow women in dozens of African countries, India, China, Russia and other regions are still living lives some think ended decades ago.
For more information on all women's rights, and to see how you can help, check out
www.amnestyusa.org/women (Amnesty International)
www.hrw.org/women (Human Rights Watch)
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