The epidemic increasingly affects women. Public authorities are alarmed. Nevertheless, nothing is done to give the floor to people with HIV. Speeches, medical practice and prevention addressed to women remain out of touch with the reality of the epidemic.
The work of the Women’s Commission is first to fight for changes in the image of HIV-positive women transmitted by most experts. We refuse to be reduced to caricatures of « sluts » or « victims ». Yet again we hear experts’ expressions of compassion instead of voices of the principals concerned. Indeed, the basic goal of our combat is for women with HIV/AIDS to recover their voices: it is more than time for us to impose the views of women living with HIV/AIDS, to have our demands made part of feminist battles and to raise awareness of the social and medical aspects of the disease that are specific to women.
In fact, treatment dosages are calculated using male-based models, since women too rarely manage to be included in clinical trials. There has been little study of secondary effects and opportunistic diseases specific to women.
The lack of attention to problems specific to women dealing with the disease is but another sign of a wider lack of interest among public authorities, especially in the area of prevention. The lack of concrete prevention campaigns targeting women is striking — as a reminder, the latest attempt settled for the audacity of showing packaged condoms. This silence plays into supporting a particularly dangerous and increasingly widespread concept, that of risk reduction linked to prevention. A means of prevention is not » more or less « effective. Either it is 100% sure, or it is not. Alternatives to the condom are slow in coming: studies of microbicides have been disappointing up to now, and as yet, no product on the market has been proved effective against the virus. Thus, even if we agitate for a wider range of means of prevention, we must be clear on this point: today, the condom remains the only completely effective means of prevention. It is up to us to refuse the role of victim that would make us accept having unprotected sex.