Statistics emanating from Africa about HIV/AIDS show that the disease has a "woman face" in the continent and this has been "further strengthened by high rate of domestic violence," says Morenike Ukpong, an official of the Nigeria HIV Vaccine and Microbicide Advocacy Group.
At a seminar organised by the Civil Society for HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (CISHAN) in conjunction with the Lagos State AIDS Control Agency yesterday, Mrs. Ukpong said 50 percent of people living with HIV/AIDS are women and the socio-cultural status of the African woman predisposes her to the disease. The theme of the seminar, which was designed to strengthen the civil society organisations involved in HIV/AIDS campaign, was a multi-sectoral approach: the key to successful HIV/AIDS programming.
"What we see in HIV statistics is a reflection of the little care we give to women," said Mrs. Ukpong, who spoke on "empowering women against HIV infection: research and development efforts in Nigeria."
According to her, Nigeria must pro-actively deal with issues that affect women's rights if it must control the prevalence of HIV/AIDS infection.
"This is very important, not for the present, but because the infection may wear the children's face in the next 25 years if women are not empowered," she said. "It's the nature women to bow to pressure and so many women are undergoing untold pressures of all kinds at work and at home. Our men should behave more responsively and stop violence against women."
Reducing rate of infection
Mrs. Ukpong explained several ongoing research interests targeted at reducing the rate of infection in women.
Apart from advocating for legal framework that will help reduce domestic and workplace violence against women, Mrs. Ukpong also campaigned for the use of female condoms.
"Female Condom is better than male Condom but because we still live in a man's world, nobody is talking about the advantages of female Condom. What we are asking for is a man and woman's world, not just a woman's world," she said.
In another presentation titled "managing global fund to improve service delivery", Grace Delan, the executive director of the Association for Reproductive and Family Health, enlightened participants on how best practices of managing grants in order to ensure continuous access to such funds.
"Citizens of donor countries are beginning to ask what we use their taxes for and therefore, international funds are reducing," she said while identifying financial misappropriation and weak documentation process as the major difficulties of accessing international fund.
Bukola Adewumi of ActionAid, Nigeria spoke on the poverty's dimension of HIV/AIDS. "Poverty induces HIV infection because it leaves poor people vulnerable. HIV/AIDS also deepen poverty because productivity is lost and cost of care is huge," she said while advising that citizens begin to demand transparency and accountability from their leaders.