Young Women and HIV Breakfast Panel

Speaking at a YWCA hosted breakfast this Thursday 24 July, and as part of the AIDS2014 Conference, Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls Natasha Stott Despoja said it is essential we highlight the issues faced by young HIV positive women.

Sharing the World YWCA’s commitment to ensuring the inclusion of women’s voices in such important dialogue, Stott Despoja will be joined by three other speakers – NORAD (Norwegian Aid) Senior Advisor Anne Skjelmerud, Marvel Spaine of the YWCA in Sierra Leone, and Lalchhuanzuali of the YWCA India.

“As the global community negotiates the priorities beyond the conference, shining a spotlight on the issues affecting young women and HIV is critical,” Ambassador Stott Despoja said. 

At the breakfast, the former Senator and now Chair of the Foundation to Prevent Violence against women and their children will also meet with members of the World YWCA Conference delegation (21 women from 15 countries around the globe), led by Hendrica Okondo, the Global Programme Manager for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), and HIV and AIDS, who, through decades of work and experience, knows all too well the huge challenges which lie ahead:

“We know that HIV is the leading cause of death and disease among women of reproductive age worldwide, and young women aged 15 to 24 accounts for 22% of all new infections worldwide. Our goal is to ensure that issues facing women in relation to sexual reproductive health and rights and HIV continue to be a key priority in the global AIDS response,” Ms Okondo said.

Of the 21 members that make up the World YWCA conference delegation (from countries ranging from Kenya, Honduras, Albania, Papua New Guinea, and India, to name just some), many are young women, and many are personally living with HIV. All are working to improve outcomes relating to SRHR and HIV within their communities.

The Conference has provided these delegates with the chance to participate in dialogues about their own experiences and concerns back home. Lalchhuanzuali from YWCA India notes that “In India, young women’s sexual and reproductive rights are undermined. If you are under the age of 18 you can’t get tested without parental approval. That needs to change,” she said. 

Throughout the IAC, World YWCA delegates will be sharing their experiences by tweeting, writing and blogging throughout their time in Australia. To stay up to date, visit our Facebook Page, follow us on Twitter, or visit the World YWCA website and Women Leading Change Blog.

Ambassador Stott Despoja, Hendrika Okondo, Marvel Spaine and “CZ” Lalchhuanzuali will be available to speak to the media at the event. Or contact Sarah Capper on 0432 831 3300432 831 330 or email sarahmcapper@yahoo.com.au to arrange an interview outside of the breakfast.