Women a Focus at XVI International AIDS Conference

Some 20,000 experts from science, medicine and government, and community organizers from around the world attended the XVI International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2006) in Toronto in August to share lessons and identify next steps. The Conference has long been a place where key scientific developments are released and discussed, and this year there was a major focus on women.

"Time to Deliver" was the theme of AIDS 2006, which aimed to advance the collective response to the epidemic by improving treatment, care and prevention worldwide. Conference organizers contend that the scientific knowledge and tools to prevent new infections and prolong life among those living with HIV/AIDS already exist, and can be applied to even the poorest settings. The challenge, they said, is to garner the resources and the collective will to translate knowledge and experience into HIV treatment and prevention programs that are broadly available.

According to a recent World Health Organization report, women are the fastest growing group of victims of HIV/AIDS. Sexual violence and an inability to negotiate safer sex greatly increase women’s vulnerability. Pregnancy is also a time of enormous risk, with violence often continuing or escalating.

AIDS 2006 had dozens of sessions addressing women and HIV/AIDS, including: Women at the Forefront in the AIDS Response; The Role of Grandmothers in the Global Response; Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission; Microbicide Development; HIV/AIDS and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights; Drug Use, HIV and Harm Reduction Among Women; Contraceptive Technologies; Where's the Money for Women's Rights and HIV/AIDS?; Women's and Girls' Rally & March; Comprehensive Training for Health Workers on the Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights of HIV Positive Women; and many more.

Organizers said the Conference directly affects the lives of those living with and affected by HIV/AIDS, and has been a catalyst for change.

More information on the Conference, including a searchable database of more than 4,500 abstracts and a special Youth Site, is available at www.aids2006.org/. Expanded coverage is available on the Kaiser Network, at www.kaisernetwork.org/aids2006/.

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