Women and HIV

Representatives of the UN HIV/AIDS Programme, HIV/AIDS
experts and NGOs discussed the continued epidemic of HIV infection in Eastern
Europe and Central Asia. Natalia Ladnaya,  senior expert at the Russian Federal AIDS
Centre, said that by 25 November 2011, 636,900 people in Russia had been
registered as HIV positive, among whom 226,000 are women. The number of women
as a proportion of the total number registered began to climb in 2002. Ladnaya
said that heterosexual infection is growing fast. Many women do not have the
usual risk factors, for example the majority have one long-term partner, and a
third only find out they are infected when they become pregnant. The regional
director of UNAIDS for Eastern Europe, J-E Malkin, said that this is because
women are particularly at risk of infection by the AIDS virus, in particular
when they are vulnerable for economic reasons, or in their ability to negotiate
safe sex procedures with a partner, and perhaps at risk of violence. He also
spoke of successes in Russia’s campaign against HIV/AIDS. Thanks to
antiretroviral drugs the transmission of the virus from mothers to their babies
had been greatly reduced. The region, he said, could be the first to eradicate
such transmissions by 2015. A representative of the State Consumer Protection Organisation,
Larisa Dementieva, said that a number of obstacles lay in the way of achieving
this aim. The main one is that pregnant women who are HIV positive do not
always seek medical help in time. Another is that the provision of milk formula
instead of breast milk for babies of such mothers is not always adequate,
according to Natalia Tsunik, from the All-Russian Network of People living with
HIV. If this could be solved, the number of drug-injecting HIV-positive mothers
who give up their babies could be reduced. Even socially well provided for
mothers with HIV need greater reassurance that whatever happens they will be
able to feed their baby.


The discussion was joined by video-link by Takhmina, a
representative of the Network of Women with HIV in Tajikistan. She said the
main problem there was cultural. Women tend to live in the same house as their
in-laws, who forbid them to get tested for HIV. In Tajikistan there are also
shortages of drugs and milk formula for mothers who are HIV positive. Most
antiretrovirals are provided by the Global Fund against AIDS, TB and Malaria,
she said.



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