Panama – Women United in the HIV Response

vih1This weekend, dozens of women with HIV or AIDS met in Panama to address and discuss a work proposal that responds to their needs. The meeting took place on 26 and 27 June, at the Hotel Roma in the city of Panama.

Some of the areas that were be addressed were justice, the elimination of gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health, among others. After 30 years of the epidemic, the voices of many activists had been turning off and many existing networks were going through a strong organization crisis, which influenced the impact they could have on policy decisions taken at the national and regional levels.

Supported by HIVOS, UNAIDS, UNDP and the HTCG, the networks of women decided to talk and work together towards common goals. Thus, for the first time, the Movimiento Latinoamericano y del Caribe de Mujeres Positivas (MLCM+), the international community of women with HIV (ICW Latina), the network of sex workers from Latin America and the Caribbean (RedTraSex), Woman Won’t Wait (WWW) and the network of positive young people decided to join efforts to respond to violence against women, the lack of public policies to address gender inequalities, the violation of Human Rights, among others, and coordinate more specific actions.

“We believe that this will be an innovative initiative and a new challenge for the women’s networks”, said Marcela Alsina, representative of the movement of Movimiento Latinoamericano y del Caribe de Mujeres Positivas. “We have worked on important points such as confidence, and understood that we can’t work alone, that we have a responsibility to the people we represent”, she concluded.

Both Alsina and other women believe that it is necessary to strengthen and enhance prominence for major changes, without losing our own identity. Strengthening should start at a local, then at a national and then at a regional level.

We hope this innovative initiative renews the presence of the parties involved in areas of public policy decision, to finally respond to the needs of hundreds of women affected by HIV.