SHARING OF THE MINDS: ASEAN members convene for an integrative approach to combat gender-based violence and HIV/AIDS

Makati, 01 December 2009 – In line with the 21st anniversary of World AIDS Day, the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), in partnership with the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) took one step further in formulating an intensive and extensive integrative approach that seeks to address the Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and HIV/AIDS issues.

The country is host to the three-day ASEAN Regional Conference with the theme “Legislating and Programming towards an Integrative Approach to Gender-Based Violence and HIV and AIDS” held at the InterContinental Hotel which kicks off today and will culminate on December 3.

“Partly as a response to the World AIDS Day that demands for universal access and human rights and as part of our 18-Day Campaign to End Violence Against Women, we are here to explore the development of laws, policies and programs that address GBV and HIV/AIDS, and integrate these two with a gender equality and human rights perspective,” said PCW Chair Myrna T. Yao.

GBV and HIV/AIDS, both global health pandemics, are often seen as two different issues with distinct origins. The latter is boxed in as a sole medical concern. Today the world is starting to acknowledge the interconnections of the two issues thereby also realizing the social, cultural, psychological, economic and political dimensions of HIV/AIDS.

Most of the methods used in addressing the problems, however, tend to be gender blind in nature. Unequal power relations mostly sexual in nature and the ignorance on the acquisition and avoidance of HIV are key factors. Women are threatened and disempowered. “The feminization of HIV/AIDS epidemic due to profound inequality and vulnerability to which women are subjected as women calls for new laws and policies” Chair Yao furthers. And the major obstacles in fixing this dilemma according to Chair Yao are “lack of responsiveness of those in power” and the “reluctance of those affected.”

The ASEAN Regional Conference is an avenue to identify several gendered sites of GBV and HIV transmission. ASEAN Region is starting to formulate and implement carefully studied integrative frameworks that would address the issues.

Representatives from the different government agencies and concerned organizations in Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and the Philippines heeded the call to have a collegial sharing of experiences and comparing of formulated plans and measures aimed to solve the twin problems of GBV and AIDS in different contexts. With this sharing of minds, each country can assess the strengths and weaknesses of the different national formulated plans. More importantly, a regional plan to combat GBV and HIV/AIDS could be prepared and completed.

The ASEAN Conference aims to achieve three basic goals: to come up with a solution for GBV and HIV/AIDS in an integrative manner, to achieve equality among the sexes especially in the ASEAN region, and to prosper commitment to international treaties.