On June 7th Annie Lennox addressed the HIV Priorities for Positive Change: In Women’s Words at UN Headquarters session in New York. This is what she said:
"In November 2003 I had the privilege to take part in a special concert in Cape Town, South Africa, to launch Nelson Mandela’s HIV Aids campaign …46664.
The following day, all the artists were invited to join with him on Robbin island, where he addressed an assemblage of international press, describing the AIDS pandemic as a virtual genocide… which was affecting women and girls in South Africa and the rest of the Sub Saharan continent on a catastrophic level.
This was a profound moment of awakening for me….
Up to that point I hadn’t fully realized what had been taking place, and as a woman and mother myself, I was astounded by the overall lack of visibilty and knowledge in terms of media coverage or public awareness, as to how the AIDS pandemic has devastated the lives of milions of women and girls. And that is how I started to campaign, to try to contribute my voice as part of a collective call to action .
Today, in 2011…Thirty years after AIDS was first discovered…. we know that it is now the leading cause of death of women of reproductive age around the globe.
We know that 60% of people becoming newly infected with the HI virus are women and girls.
We know that in Sub Saharan Africa, over 70% of young people living with HIV are young women.
We also know what can be done about this…
The effort and dedicated commitment of thousands of women’s groups, and networks of women and girls living with HIV…. doctors, nurses, researchers, politicians, activists, philanthropists and campaigners, have collectively created quantum steps forwards.
Medication has been developed that keeps people alive for decades..not only years.
Transmission rates can be slowed down, when people adhere to treatment.
So why are nine million people still living without access to treatment, and why is this situation tolerated, or pushed under the carpet?
What does it say about us as human beings if, after having made all these massive steps forwards..millions of women and girls do not reach their full potential, but continue to die prematurely.
Why do we ignore the health and rights of half the world’s population ..putting them at greater risk of HIV infection?
Is it because they are not deemed to be important enough?
How many men still believe that women are in fact worthless?
Why have we still done so little to address the issue of endemic violence against women and girls, when statistics tell us that the first sexual encounter of up to 45% of girls under 15 is forced upon them, when rape is continuously used as a weapon of warfare, while we know that the risk of HIV among women who have been exposed to violence is up to 3 times higher.
What does it say about leaders of nations in powerful positions who do not do everything in their power to ensure that the health, human rights, security and dignity of women and girls is definitively protected?
Right now, we are at a crucial juncture.. when we have the unique opportunity to turn the AIDS pandemic around.
Women have told us what their priorities are. Women know what they want.
Yet right now, here at the UN as world leaders gather to plot the future course of the HIV response, the resolution is only referring to women in the context of becoming mothers.
As well as focusing on mothers producing healthy infants, we must also address the needs and rights of women themselves – at every stage of their life.
In my view, negligent non action as a response to the HIV epidemic – as it affects women and girls – is just as bad – just as accountable as criminal action.
We urge you…we implore you..please…do the right thing for women and girls..…What we need is action, not rhetoric.
As long as we continue to exclude women and girls in this whole equation, AIDS will never be over."