THE Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL), in its effort to boost awareness of the increased risk women face in contracting HIV, yesterday launched its seventh annual anti-stigma calendar and poster.
The 2009 calendar and poster features Olympian Melaine Walker, her mother and grandmother; Olympian Kerron Stewart and her mother; Olympian Aleen Bailey; Miss Jamaica World Brittany Lyons and her mother, Mary Claire Lyons, and her grandmother; Special Olympian Esther Pair and other influential women in the Jamaican society.
“We chose this year to feature women, their daughters and granddaughters because we know that HIV respects no generation and that women are at enormous risk,” Christine English, head of the calendar team said during the launch at the JASL office in Kingston. “We have incorporated the Olympic theme in celebration of our women who have done so well and we have used the verses from the Bible: “The race is not for the swift, but for those who endure to the end.”
Miriam Maluwa, UNAIDS country representative for Jamaica, The Bahamas and Belize, explained that women and girls were twice as likely to acquire HIV from an infected partner during unprotected intercourse.
“In the context of HIV, women face double jeopardy because the epidemiological data shows that half of all persons living with HIV are women. Also there are about 14 million women and girls living with HIV,” she said. “In the Caribbean, we know that there are about 92,000 women living with HIV.”
She said the links between HIV and gender equality have increased vulnerability to infection among women.
She added that cultural and social norms often restricted women from very basic information related to sexual and reproductive issues.
At the same time, Andrea Chin-See, JASL board member, said the rates of infection were highest among girls between mid-teen and early to mid-20s. Additionally, she said unequal sexual relationships make it harder for our women to negotiate condom use.
“For us here at JASL, and I dare say for all those in any kind of HIV planning, the now popular Jamaica phrase ‘is woman time now’ takes on a whole new and different meaning,” she said.
Data from the health ministry also indicates that 134 women were diagnosed with HIV/AIDS between January and June last year, while 63 women died during the same period last year.