#WhatWomenWant is a collaborative effort launched by the ATHENA Network and driven by young feminists and young women from around the world. The campaign has created space for activists and advocates across the women’s movement to amplify their voices, power their solutions and claim their agency. The #WhatWomenWantcampaign aims to inspire renewed leadership and drive momentum towards realizing the vision, priorities, and rights of women and girls in all of their diversity and to end HIV as a public health emergency. It provides a democratic platform and space to equalize all voices and catalyze cross-movement action towards what truly works for women and girls.
1. What are the current gaps in the HIV response for women and girls, and what are key barriers and enablers to young women accessing HIV/SRHR services?
What I feel is that young women can feel judged when they go to seek health services. They do not feel comfortable or safe when talking about sexual partners or sexual practices. I´ve heard of a woman who went to the doctor asking for the HIV test, but the doctor was very surprised and in return claimed: “what the hell did you do lady, to need that test!”
2. What does the end of AIDS mean to you? What role can the women’s movement play to accelerate progress?
The end of AIDS means that everyone has access to antiretroviral therapy and health care. For free. It also means that people should be as fortunate and lucky as I am now to live in a country with free HIV treatment. The power that we women have in this is extraordinary, not just only because we can stop vertical transmission of the virus, but because we can say loud and clear: NO means NO (e.g., sorry, NO without a condom).
3. Why do we need a feminist HIV response?
The rates of men to women in relation to new HIV infection have changed. Not as many women were living with HIV in the past as we are now. From my point of view, this means that we were not ready yet and that we need to put more intention into model a feminist HIV response due to our particular characteristics. Of course, together with all the other communities!
4. What is your top health priority for women and girls in the next 5 years as it relates to HIV?
Reproductive health rights of course, but also, very importantly, to include psychological support… The other day at my HIV clinic I saw a woman crying. She had just received results on her HIV+ status. She was all by herself. I gave her my number though I´m sure she’ll never call the unknown girl who gave her a phone number and spoke to her some unintelligible language… My heart broke at the certainty that she´ll go through this process by herself with no mental support at all.
5. The 2016 Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS, along with other global and regional policy instruments, have made bold pledges to achieve gender equality and address HIV for women and girls. How can national governments practically translate these commitments into actions?
I would like to see more women studying medicine and research and more women and girls being involved in decision making and government. Finally, more NGOs, charities and movements such as the #WhatWomenWant should be empowered and resourced to thrive.