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Call to recruit women in campaign against HIV/AIDS

By Shan Juan (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-07-27 15:56
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Beijing - Women should be recruited as an active force in the fight against HIV/AIDS, a campaign that has previously addressed them almost exclusively as carriers of the virus, according to study by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences released on Monday.

Funded by UNAIDS, researchers interviewed more than 1,000 HIV-positive women in 13 provinces either in person or by questionnaire to study its impact on female sufferers, said Bu Wei, a professor at the academy who led the study.

China's policies "focus largely on pregnant women and prostitutes for intervention and prevention services," she said.

In their sex lives, women have less say over condom use as well as little say about the disease in society, said He Xiaopei, director of the Pink Space, a Beijing-based NGO that provides support to female sufferers.

Women should be empowered by education to fight the virus, while assisting authorities in reaching high-risk groups like gays and prostitutes, she added.

He Tiantian, who heads the Women's Network against AIDS, a civil society group, said cooperation between the government and groups like hers are essential, too.

Police crackdowns on prostitution, she added, also have the potential of undermining efforts in HIV/AIDS control among high-risk groups.

Jing Jun, a professor and director of the social policy institute at Tsinghua University, agreed with her observation.

Police arrests, he said, will do little or nothing for disease control, except to drive prostitutes further underground, thwarting the delivery of intervention efforts.

International experience has shown the most effective HIV/AIDS interventions seek to protect the rights of those living with the virus and those who are most vulnerable to infection, said Michael Kirby, an AIDS activist and former Australian High Court Judge.

"If we treat these individuals as criminals, we drive them out of reach of prevention, treatment and care," he said.

China Daily