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Ana Aguilera, Mexico

1. What do you see as the current gaps in the HIV response for women and girls and what are key barriers and enablers to accessing HIV/SRHR services? 

The biggest gap I see in the HIV response for women and girls is the isolated approach we often take when addressing HIV. We fail to see the linkages between education about sexual and reproductive health and how that often leads to a lack of access to contraception, exposure to HIV and perhaps an unintended pregnancy. We often treat HIV as a separate issue from other SRHR issues such as comprehensive sexuality education, access to contraception and access to safe and legal abortion. As a result, we implement programs to address each of these issues separately and lose out on the opportunity to provide more holistic and comprehensive programs that see a girl or woman as needing information about and access to a comprehensive package of SRH services. In my experience, the biggest barrier to accessing SRH services can also be the biggest enabler. I believe it is ultimately empowerment that makes the difference. An empowered girl or woman that values herself and that feels supported by her family and community will find ways to access SRHR information and services. 

2. What effective strategies that have worked in your community to prevent and address GBV in all its forms & what laws do you think need to be strengthened or repealed to help prevent and address GBV, and to protect the rights of women and girls in all of our diversity? 

Addressing gender-based violence requires a comprehensive approach that employs a human rights centered approach. We know that girls and women all around the world experience gender-based violence, most often from those closest to them. We also know that women and girls abused by a male partner are three times more likely to continue a pregnancy they want to terminate. When faced with an unwanted pregnancy resulting from rape, they are more than twice as likely to choose to terminate that pregnancy, even if safe and legal abortion options are unavailable. We must ensure that girls and women have access to a comprehensive package of reproductive health services, including access to contraception and safe abortion. We must continue to educate all girls and boys around the world and slowly reconstruct the gender norms that are in place that reinforce the differences between girls and boys. Along with education, we must also ensure that communities support the reconstruction of gender norms. 

3. How can young women be supported to break structural barriers that hinder the progress towards gender equality?

Young women like me need to be supported to overcome the barriers that get in the way of our participation and our leadership. To support us, First, we need to acknowledge the gender imbalances that exist in positions of decision-making and power across the various spheres that we operate in. Without specifically calling out the imbalances and the reasons for why they exist, we cannot address these imbalances. Second, we need to create spaces for us to build our capacity as leaders and exercise our leadership abilities in the spheres that we don’t normally operate in. Third, we need to recognize that for young women to step into leadership roles, others need to step back and share the power they hold. This is often the hardest part because it requires assessing and shifting the power dynamics. 

4. Why do we need a feminist HIV response? 

We need a feminist HIV response because HIV disproportionately affects young women and those women are often in relationships where they hold less power than their male partners. By employing a feminist response to the HIV epidemic, we are not only treating HIV and AIDS as a health issue but also a gender equality issue that requires attention to existing gender and power dynamics. We cannot continue to only treat the symptoms of problems whose root causes stem from gender inequality and the notion that women are inferior to men. 

5. The world will meet in June at the High Level Meeting on AIDS 2016, what is one of thing you would like to see come out of this meeting? (Especially that it happens after adoption of SDGs) 

One thing I would like to see come out of this meeting is an action plan for how high level players and future commitments will engage young women as leaders, as shakers and movers for their communities. It is time that we hold civil society and our governments accountable to ensuring that young women lead the AIDS movement now and in the future. . 

Thanks to our partner Catherine Nyambura for her support on this project. See more at: | Rural Reporters