AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) has called on world leaders to ensure the safety of women and girls, secure and have unimpeded access to HIV testing, prevention and treatment services.
Ms Loretta Wong, the AHF Senior Director of Global Advocacy and Policy, made this known in a statement by Mr Steve Aborisade, Advocacy and Marketing Manager of the foundation at the commemoration of the International Women’s Day on Friday in Abuja.
The theme of the Day is “Keep the Promise to Women” and “#BalanceForBetter”.
Wong said the world was at a critical point in its battle with HIV and AIDS, saying women bore the brunt of the epidemic, particularly in developing countries.
She said almost 19 million women and girls were living with HIV worldwide and 870,000 becoming newly infected every year.
“Government and community leaders can keep the promise to women by guaranteeing they have equal and unfettered access to the healthcare services they need. We must move from rhetoric to action, if the world is serious about gender equality and building women leaders, we must first keep them alive,” Wong said.
The statement said that as part of activities to commemorate the day, there would be an exhibition in March 14 by selected women from across the suburbs in Abuja.
It said the women would be displaying their wares and showcasing exceptional changes.
“AHF recognises annually on March 8, advocacy surrounding International Women’s Day strives to unite governments, organisations and businesses to foster change for gender equality,’’ it said.
Dr Echey Ijezie, AHF-Nigeria Country Programme Director, said women account for almost half of Nigeria’s estimated population of about 200 million, generally were lagging behind in all aspects of life and for them.
”In Nigeria, as in many other countries of the world, there is a strong social, religious, economic and political bias that subjugates women. Gender inequality has thus elevated a culture of male supremacy which drives violence that women and girls have to cope with. It has ensured that girls and women have limited access to education, ownership of land and of assets,” he said.
He said in many homes, women were unable to negotiate safe sex and hardly could take decisions bothering on their sexual and reproductive health, which predisposed them to HIV infection bearing the greater burden of the disease.
To commemorate the Day, Ijezie said that AHF Nigeria would be honouring the exceptional courage and resilience of the Nigerian woman who in spite all odds, continued to make a mark, breaking the yoke of economic dependency through entrepreneurship.