HIV/AIDS

The Our Bodies, Our Lives Campaign for Better ARVs has grown from strength to strength since its inception in 2012. JASS Southern Africa gathered over 18 Malawian partners and allies to reflect on three years of organizing alongside the women activist leaders who drive the campaign within their communities by standing up and speaking out for alternative ARVs, better healthcare and the resources to sustain their lives and livelihoods. For the women, the tangible fruits of this campaign and more than a decade of HIV-AIDS organizing are a strong marker that a movement is not built by one organization but through the learning, sharing, exchange and collaboration of many.
Increasing women’s political leadership has been on the top of gender equality agendas since the mid-1990s. But women’s rights advocates also recognize that, while having more elected women is important, governments are no longer the sole locus of power and decision-making. In this article we ask, "Where is the real power sitting?"
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“If you want women’s votes in 2014 put 75 billion on the table for better ARVs,” is the challenge that Malawian activist leaders have put on the table in the run-up to the 2014 general elections. While Malawi’s bid to ensure 50% representation of women in politics may not be realised in this election cycle, HIV positive women activists are standing up boldly to voice their demands to presidential and parliamentary candidates.
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In this thought-provoking article, Hope Chigudu shares her inspiring words on the importance of "planting seeds of empowerment in a disempowering context" as she describes the journey of Malawian HIV positive women's courageous fight for decent for health care resources and the rewards that came with it.
This case study shares the experiences and perceptions of HIV positive women in Malawi who have organized to change how they view themselves, how they are treated and how to demand their right to decent health care.
"I've never engaged in this kind of writing before. I've given my testimonies to other people. But I have never tried to put it on paper for myself so that others can learn from my experiences," says Malawian activist Mirriam Munthali at the first JASS Southern Africa Regional Writeshop.
Malawi has almost one million estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS (924,800 PLWHA - UNAIDS 2009). Malawi’s HIV/AIDS prevalence rate (the percent of people living with HIV) is almost twice the rate in sub Saharan Africa overall (14.2% compared with 7.5% in 2006 UNAIDS).
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Malawian women activists will hold a national dialogue with stakeholders and decisionmakers from 20 – 22 October 2012 to demand for an immediate rollout of quality ART. Women will also meet with Ministry of Health officials and take to the streets at the Global Race to SAVE Lives Conference during a March on October 23 to demand the necessary resources and support from the ministry of health, medical institutions, local financial lending institutions and government to save lives now.
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HIV+ women in Malawi are being poisoned by the anti-retroviral treatment (ART) provided by the government, which contains Stavudine, a drug that causes painful side effects. Due to deep poverty and inequality, many women are unable to afford alternative ART or land and fertilizer to support good nutrition to make treatment more effective. For four years JASS has supported Malawian women activists in a movement-building process to tackle critical issues affecting women. Considerable mobilization and organizing has culminated into a campaign to ensure women’s access to alternative quality ART with fewer side effects.
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