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Global HIV/AIDS conference opens in Kenya

An international HIV/AIDS conference opened in Nairobi Thursday with United Nations affirming the centrality of gender equality and recognition of the critical role that women play in the fight against the pandemic.
The International Summit on Women's Leadership on HIV and AIDS is seeking to mobilize urgent responses to rising HIV infection rates among women and girls in the world.
WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 01:  Demonstrators deman...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
Addressing the forum, World Health Organization(WHO) Director General Dr. Margaret Chan called on women use their numerical strength in tackling the pandemic which has killed millions of people.
Dr. Chan said poverty, gender inequality and intimate partner violence are among the factors which drive the HIV/AIDS and called on women to turn the tide on the epidemic.
"Women must be in the driver's seat" in order to keep the promise of achieving universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support, Chan told hundreds of women at a YWCA summit in Nairobi.
"Women can turn the tide on this epidemic. Women are best placed to make existing tools work. You in this room, including so many HIV positive women, are the living proof," she said.
The WHO director general said the HIV/AIDS epidemic has put the spotlight on deep-rooted constraints that hold women back in many areas of life.
"Traditional attitudes and behaviors change gradually, sometimes over several generations. This epidemic gives us no such luxury of time," Dr. Chan said.
She said the AIDS pandemic was spilling over to the children, saying that half a million infants are born with HIV each year and around 80 percent of them are born in Sub-Saharan Africa.
"Here in Kenya, as in many other countries, fewer than one in ten of eligible women is benefiting from antiretroviral prophylaxis to prevent transmission to their babies," she said.
"We know that containing AIDS is not about responding to a single disease. We have to deal with multiple opportunistic infections, sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis, malaria, reproductive health, mental health, and psychosocial support," she said.
Key issues at the conference, which runs in Nairobi until July 7, will include feminization of the HIV pandemic, gender inequality, health care and treatment, sexual and reproductive rights, women's leadership and economic empowerment.
The HIV/AIDS conference come as the UNAIDS 2006 report on the global AIDS epidemic states that approximately 38.6 million people around the world were living with HIV at the end of 2005.
Just over four million people became newly infected with HIV and an estimated 2.8 million people worldwide died of the disease.
Sub-Saharan Africa continues to bear the brunt of the epidemic, especially southern Africa, but the report says the rate of infection appears to have peaked in several countries, including Kenya and Zimbabwe.
The conference, organized by Young Women Christen Association ( YWCA) is held every four years to also recognize women achievers in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
source : google news

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