Yemen's women talk HIV: female support squad take on the stigma

Published December 6th, 2012 - 10:18 GMT
Yemeni women at the workshop (Photo: Nadia Haddash / Yemen Times)
Yemeni women at the workshop (Photo: Nadia Haddash / Yemen Times)
The Yemeni Women’s Union, in cooperation with the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, held a workshop Tuesday about gender and women living with HIV. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) funded the workshop.

The workshop focused on providing information and knowledge about reproductive health, causes of HIV and methods of prevention, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and the importance of the voluntary STD testing. 

Thirty women working in Dar Al-Amal and Dar Al-Weam—places that take in women after they’re released from prison, women police officers and several civil society organizations working in the women and human rights areas attended the workshop.

Ramzia Al-Eryani, head of the Yemeni Women’s Union, said there are 3,500 recorded cases of HIV in Yemen, split as 34 percent women and 66 percent men. 

Doctor Fawzia Gharama, UNAIDS country office coordinator, said the workshop is vital in providing advice about the contribution of civil society organizations working with women and on human rights to accelerate national procedures to empower women about reproductive health and HIV and to promote prevention, treatment and care services.

Women living with HIV also participated in the workshop and reflected on the discrimination they are subject to. 

W. A., an HIV-positive women, said, “I’m not accepted in government and private jobs due to HIV.”

Gharama said the government should create laws to ensure equal rights for people living with HIV and to establish several assemblies through which people with HIV can express their opinions in various fields.

“When colleagues at work came to know about my infection with AIDS, I felt as if I had fallen in an abyss because I was fired at once and many of my friends ignored me,” S.A., a Yemeni women, said.

The workshop addressed several studies about the stigma toward Yemeni women with HIV/AIDS and the obstacles of therapeutic and prevention services usage for people affected with the disease. 

J.K., another woman living with HIV, said she wrote “Living with AIDS” on her hospital bed, in search of acceptance.

Among the indicators of stigmas against the people living with AIDS in Yemen, studies found that one-third of HIV-infected people reside elsewhere due to discrimination. It also found 51 percent of people aren’t allowed to sleep in the same place as other family members or eat with them. They also are excluded from social, family and religious activities.

In the workshop, it was reported that one-third of HIV-infected Yemenis avoid health centers and one-third said doctors checked them without their consent.

J.A. said that except for the obligatory blood donation and marriage testing, HIV test results should remain secret and voluntary.
By Nadia Haddash
Do you think it's important for more Middle Eastern countries to tackle the stigma associated with HIV? Should more places in the region be doing the same? Leave us your comments below!

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