By Sonia Rastogi, U.S. Positive Women’s Network
T-minus 38 days until the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) in Washington, D.C. This is my first International AIDS Conference. As a young woman living with HIV, I am excited because most of the HIV-positive U.S. women I know have never attended an International AIDS Conference. This is our opportunity to connect with women and girls living with HIV across the globe, to learn from each other, develop collective wisdom, and to strengthen a shared sense of urgency regarding priorities for women living with and vulnerable to HIV globally.
We are at a critical moment in HIV history. We have the science to end the epidemic and, equally as important, 30 years of community and grassroots knowledge and expertise on how to curb it. For the U.S., the conference falls in the thick of the 2012 election cycle; an election where our country’s access to affordable, quality health care, the protections against gender-based violence and women’s sexual and reproductive rights will once again be up for an archaic debate.
In this tense political environment, HIV-positive women and allies are mobilizing to ensure that the rights of all women are upheld and that all women have the opportunity to live a life of dignity and respect. We look forward to seeing people living with HIV, especially those from communities most impacted, at the Living 2012 pre-conference and throughout AIDS 2012, respected as leaders and for our expertise by the international HIV community.
As a national membership body women living with HIV, including transgender women and allies, the U.S. Positive Women’s Network is committed to ensuring the meaningful participation and involvement of HIV-positive women at the conference and its related activities.
We are committed to ensuring that the voices of HIV-positive women are heard, valued, and respected.
We are committed to supporting and preparing HIV-positive women to be at the table with decision-makers and the media.
We are committed to creating a community of women and allies before, during, and after the conference to encourage mentorship and new leadership.
Here are the 5 things we want to see at AIDS 2012:
- Community and movement building. The crisis facing women living with HIV in the U.S. is connected to all of our movements. We hope to see tens of thousands of diverse people and organizations in the streets on Tuesday, 24 July, as part of the mass mobilization to end the HIV epidemic. Join Women Making Waves the women’s arm of the march!
- Leadership from U.S. and global leaders in ending laws and practices that criminalize people living with and vulnerable to HIV – including criminalization of sex work, drug use, HIV exposure, and homosexuality.
- Commitment from researchers, scientists, and the federal government to prioritize research on women-controlled prevention technologies that have the potential to uphold our full sexual and reproductive rights and from public health officials and providers to implement prevention and care strategies that uphold our rights to parent or not to parent, and to control our own childbearing, whether or not we are living with HIV;
- A plan and timeline from the White House Office of AIDS Policy and the Department of Health and Human Services to address the intersection between sexual and reproductive health, violence against women and girls, and gender-related health disparities as part of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy
- Meaningful and visible leadership of the communities most impacted by the epidemic.
U.S. Positive Women’s Network Activities
U.S. Positive Women’s Network will host, support, and attend many activities throughout the conference! Check out our AIDS 2012 Calendar and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter (@uspwn).