The city of Cochabamba in Bolivia became headquarters of the 2nd Latin American and the Caribbean meeting of women (ELLA 2015), which brought together more than 300 women with different identities and a goal in common: coordinate efforts to break differences. The event was held from 7 to 10 May 2015.
As its name implies, the event was attended by women from all over Latin America and the Caribbean, which included women with HIV, activists, feminists, sex workers, lesbian, indigenous women, artisans, transwomen, artists, among many others.
One of the main objectives of the event was that women make effort from their various problems aimed at breaking differences and join their voices toward common goals, on topics such as HIV, sexual diversity, decriminalization of abortion, violence, sexual and reproductive rights, human trafficking, sex work, stigma and discrimination, and body autonomy.
One of the most debated issues during this meeting was a workshop named: talking about sexuality, but with what body? The core of this theme focused on the inclusion of women and HIV, a great achievement of 2015.
Women with HIV from several countries shared their experiences and agreed that it is very difficult to talk about sexuality because it is usually linked to stigma and discrimination, fear of revealing the diagnosis to their partners, the fear of transmission, and fear of loneliness.
“It is important to be HIV undetectable, since it is a way of not transmitting the virus. However, in some countries such as Bolivia HIV transmission is criminalized.”
In women with HIV, psychological violence is a constant fact in their lives. In addition, it seems that an HIV status impedes the right to the enjoyment of sexuality. Similarly, many women are seen as culprits, such as those who pollute and are judged by “what has she done that now she has HIV?”
Those who were born with HIV faced situations of rejection from their sexual initiation. “I was born with HIV and grew up with pills, hospitals and doctors, and when I was younger, I told my partner I had HIV, and that led me to psychological violence and made me feel that I should thank him for being with me.”
Finally, one of the many conclusions made during the event was the importance of addressing sexuality from the perspective of adherence to life. It is necessary to work to strengthen the self-esteem of women, self-worth and self-care. Despite how difficult that is to talk about sexuality and HIV, we must know that love is stronger than HIV, and we all have the right to be happy.