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First Lady Zineb Jammeh talks about ending HIV/AIDS by 2030

Mar 12, 2015, 2:34 PM | Article By: Halimatou Ceesay

First Lady Zineb Yahya Jammeh on 8 March, in a statement she delivered, talked about ending HIV/AIDS by 2030.

She saluted Gambian women on the celebration of the International Women’s Day by showing solidarity, and urged them to speak out against abuse, as well as outlined development agendas all geared towards the protection and advancement of women in The Gambia, Africa and the world at large; calling women “partners in every household, in every society and in every country.”

She-she-she brings you this very important statement by Mrs Zineb Yahya Jammeh on this very important occasion marking International Women’s Day. It reads:

March 8, 2015 is observed throughout the world as International Women’s Day.

It is an occasion not only to celebrate the social, economic and political achievements of women, but to also reflect on and highlight the continued challenges faced by women.

I wish to thank you all in joining me to celebrate the accomplishments of women.

The internationally-recognized achievements of Gambian women have inspired this year’s theme which is, and I quote, “Vision 2016, Gambian women can make it happen.”

I believe the theme of the vision focused on 2016 is not only appropriate, but achievable.

The reason for its achievability is that recognition of the significant contribution of women toward the goal of Vision 2016 has been recognize by the President, in dedicating his prestigious award from the FAO on hunger reduction to Gambian women.

I wish to congratulate each and every Gambian woman, for her role in responding to the President’s call to go back to the land, and his appeal to “grow what we eat” and “eat what we grow”.

The declarations and recommendations from the review and appraisal of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action at the 59th session of Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) offer us an exceptional prospect to meaningfully contribute to gender equality, empowerment and the realization of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women and girls throughout their life cycle.

The 2015 priority area for the Organization of African First Ladies Against HIV and AIDS (OAFLA) and High Level Task Force on Women (HLTF) is to work toward “ending AIDS by 2030, as well as improving the sexual reproductive health and rights of women and young girls, which complements the African Union’s priority area of 2015 namely, the “Year of Women Empowerment and Development toward Africa’s Agenda 2063”.

This is the time to remind ourselves that women and girls still continue to suffer disproportionately from poor health and limited access to education.

Many girls and young women in Africa still do not have access to education or have higher dropout rates. Particularly, adolescent girls are forced to leave school because of marriage at an early age; as a result are victims of gender-based violence, early pregnancies, sexual exploitation, unsafe abortion and the resulting risks from sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

Their future is, therefore, disadvantaged in many ways, which remains a major challenge in achieving higher education levels and economic development in Africa.

Evidence shows that support to women leads to improved health status and increased income levels in both households and communities, resulting in economic development.

The fact that our governments and communities are facing challenges to address gender-based violence for girl-child education; HIV/AIDS and cervical cancer control, improving sexual reproductive health, improving maternal and child health, as well as mental health of women and undermining women’s economic empowerment, political representation and overall poverty reduction.

African first ladies are members of the Organization of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA), and work jointly with the high-level Task Force on Women, Girls, Gender Equality and on HIV, and have shown a strong commitment toward the achievement of gender equality and women’s empowerment in all spheres.

Ending AIDS by 2030

In 2013, almost 60 per cent of new HIV infections among young people (15-24 years) occurred among adolescent girls and young women.

Every hour, 60 young women are newly infected with HIV, predominantly through sexual transmission. The end of AIDS will only happen if we focus on transformative interventions for young women and girls.

In The Gambia, there are major challenges related to resources, cultural practices, as well as negative social responses directed at those living with and affected by HIV and AIDS.

Cultural practices like wife inheritance are still issues that need to be discussed.

According to the 2013 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS 2013), HIV prevalence among widows is 13 per cent, far more than the 1.9 per cent for the general population.

Despite this alarming situation, wife inheritance remains deeply rooted in Gambian society. Stigma and discrimination remains formidable challenges in the response to HIV/AIDS.

According to stigma index study conducted in 2012, people living with HIV perceived high levels of stigma and discrimination including gossip, social rejection, and divorce upon suspicion or disclosure of HIV status.

The donor-funding gap is a predominant challenge, as the Global Fund remains the only key partner supporting Government in this regard.

As such, there is a huge funding gap and this continues to pose challenges in bringing comprehensive HIV services to the doorsteps of all Gambians.

Elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV

In 2013, Sub-Saharan Africa had 2.9 million children living with HIV, 2 million of them in eastern and southern Africa.

Out of 210, 000 new infections among children were in eastern and southern Africa. That notwithstanding, the concerted efforts on a global, regional and national scale, has led Africa to a tremendous decrease in new infections among babies from 2005 and seemed to be on the right trajectory to reach the elimination targets for 2015.

However, to completely eliminate new infections among babies by 2030, we still need to ensure all HIV positive mothers have access to health care services including treatment for HIV and AIDS.

There is a national and global drive to stem new HIV infections, particularly through the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV (PMTCT).

The Gambia continues to register progress in PMTCT. In 2013 for instance, 50, 251 pregnant women were tested and received their post-test HIV results.

Out of the 50, 251, just 773 tested positive of which 729 were provided with PMTCT ARV prophylaxis to prevent the transmission of HIV to their babies.

Although remarkable progress is made on PMTCT, the situation indicates that a lot more needs to be done, particularly with regards to male involvement, adherence to treatment, resource mobilization, stigma, discrimination and geographical coverage.