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Génesis Luigi, Venezuela

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? 

I can see two major barriers in Latin America, the first one is cultural: the stigma related to HIV -and STIs in general-, women are afraid to get tested because they don’t think it’s necessary, because they don’t trust in health service providers confidentiality, or they believe that HIV can be equal to a “death sentence”, a ban for having a sex life or even to be able to get jobs since some companies ask for an HIV test as part of the recruitment process. The other major barrier is related to access in both prevention and treatment, most education-based programs can reach certain groups such as girls and young women within the education system, but there’re women living in rural areas, sex workers, queer women, women with disabilities and indigenous women that can’t have access to the information they need. Also, for an efficient prevention a reliable access to condoms is key, some women have to travel long distances to access contraception, the same happens for treatment, if it’s not available and accessible this certainly has a negative impact on adherence.  

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community or setting to prevent and address GBV in all its forms & What laws do you think need to be strengthened or repealed to help prevent and address GBV, and to protect the rights of women and girls in all of our diversity? 

A diverse range of strategies have been implemented: from community-based programs where sensitization is crucial to identify and challenge identify gender based violence within communities, schools and family, to advocacy for implementations of laws that can revindicate women and their right to live a life free of violence. One of the most interesting approaches is to work directly with boys and young men challenging negative what masculinities. Most importantly it gets to discuss from a critical point of view of what traditional gender norms imply and how they can be harmful for everyone. To reach parents with comprehensive sexuality education can be useful too since they are the role model figures for children and adolescents. 

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

We are facing a difficult reality that can be translated into little access to an effective activism. Support can come from several actors, at school, teachers can encourage girls to get involved in leadership roles; in the non-profit organizations sector we have to raise the voices of women that are leading grassroots initiatives, give them a space to promote their causes and proposals including funding their initiatives. Actors involved in funding and financing have to look at women -women in all their diversity, not only white and middle class women) as game changers and others just as program beneficiaries. To face structural barriers we need women with a feminist perspective in decision making positions at all levels, from NGOs to government. 

4. Why do we need a feminist HIV response? 

To meet the needs of girls and young women, since they are one the most affected groups by HIV. We need a response that can address gender inequalities as a major barrier, and can involve women and girls in all their diversity. A feminist response implies that we are aware of the structural causes of HIV transmission, it puts on the table the intersections and the risk of contracting HIV, it’s not the same to experience risk as a black woman, or indigenous, or a woman with disabilities, the same for access to prevention and treatment. The HIV response movement should not be afraid to identify as feminist.  

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

I would like to see a diverse range of representatives from civil society that can address the challenges we have towards the implementation of concrete plans of actions. I would like to see the HIV response as a transversal axis in the SDG, we can’t ensure healthy lives and well-being if people don’t have access to treatment, if people are discriminated because of their HIV status they can’t get access to decent jobs and therefore, can’t participate in economic growth for communities. I want to see discussion about goals indicators and how governments and civil society can establish partnership. Accountability matters too in this meeting since a great part of the HIV response relies on Health Ministries.

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