May 11, 2009, 7:13 AM
National AIDS Secretariat (NAS) and partners yesterday kicked off a two-day
workshop on gender HIV and TB assessment.
The outcome of the workshop, held at the premises of ActionAid in Kanifing, would be part of gender-specific measures included in the National HIV Strategic Plan and other relevant national documents.
Speaking on the occasion, Alpha Khan, deputy director of NAS, said tuberculosis, and HIV and AIDS are still major public health and development challenges in The Gambia.
He noted that no study was done yet on the linkages between gender inequality and vulnerability of women to HIV.
However, he pointed out that in addition to biological factors increasing women’s vulnerability to HIV, social and cultural norms play an important role in increasing the risks for women to be infected.
As regards TB, Mr Khan said routine surveillance data and TB prevalence survey reports indicate that it disproportionately affects males more than females.
“No study has been conducted to determine the factors responsible for the unequal vulnerability or risk of getting TB among males and females,” he said, adding that there is a need for such study so as to provide evidence to inform programme interventions.
He further lamented that due to the patriarchal culture of The Gambia, it is difficult to achieve desired outcomes relating to the gender-based approach to HIV and AIDS.
“There is a culture of silence surrounding sex, and that impedes discussion on prevention and control of HIV and AIDS. As a result, strategic information to inform the development and implementation of programmes addressing gender and HIV, as well as TB is inadequate.”
Sira Wally Ndow, UNAIDS country director, said the ongoing gender assessment on the national HIV and TB response is the first one in The Gambia.
“There has been a major gap in the national response. The review will go a long way in informing our policies and programmes, but also assist them when they do our Global Fund concept note.”
Ms Ndow said the assessment workshop is expected to address “the major gap” in the response to HIV.