Karina Chronicles

Empowering Women in the Fight Against HIV

KDKC EmAnnE

In October 2011, Emily-Ann Elliot quit her day job as a journalist and set off on her very own grown up gap year, completing 30 challenges around the world before she turned 30. Emily-Ann thinks everybody, no matter what their age, should get the chance to experience a gap year and when she returned to the UK,  she created The Grownup Gap Year to help to answer some of the practical questions about deciding how and when to take one, as well as pointing out some of the amazing places travellers might want to add to their own bucket list.

Earlier this month I traveled to Zambia as a new media fellow for the International Reporting Project. The ten day #ZambiaHealth trip was such an eye-opening experience as we visited clinics, met patients and talked to health workers who are tackling global health issues including HIV, malaria and TB in the country.

The prevalence of HIV in adults in Zambia is 14.3%, although in some areas, such as Livingstone, it’s as high as 30%. More women are infected than men and the number of infections is significantly higher in urban areas. One of the issues which really came to light during the visit is the important role women play in the fight against HIV. This has already been seen in the country, with a huge reduction in the rates of mother-to-child transmission thanks to HIV testing programs during pregnancy.

HIV activist Dr Manasseh Phiri told us that when women are given the facts about keeping their family healthy they are likely to make sensible choices and, importantly, encourage their husbands and children to do the same. He believes that if the status of women can be raised in Zambia they can help to lead the HIV response in areas including men having sex with men (which is currently illegal in the country,) testing and encouraging the uptake of male circumcision.  This, of course, comes with its own challenges, which includes changing cultural practices in a country where, in the doctor’s words, the belief is: “A woman is born to make her man happy.” But, after almost 40 years of trying to fight HIV, Dr Phiri describe this decade as “the decade of hope”. He said: “The answer to the HIV epidemic is women. If we can empower women we will sort this problem out.”

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How you can help to empower women in other countries:

  • Support organisations like World Pulse, which gives a voice to women from 190 different countries.
  • Consider helping women around the world with a small business loan, such as a $25 loan through Kiva.
  • Add your voice to campaigns by groups like Women without Borders, which encourages women to take the lead in their personal and public lives.
  • And it doesn’t have to just be in other countries, support your family members and friends around you. Make sure that they feel loved and appreciated and know their value in the world.

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