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Support women living with HIV

Press conference dedicated to the issues of  women living with HI in Armenia was conducted in Urbat press club on September 23, 2010. It was realized by “Real World, Real People” NGO with the support of ASTRA network. The programs coordinator of “Public Information and Need of Knowledge” NGO, Marine Margaryan was also invited to the conference. Below you can read her speech.

Each culture during different periods of its history perceived gender and sexuality in a unique way. In fact our understanding about gender norms and sexuality is formed under the influence of various factors, such as traditions, policy, and religion. This gender roles and stereotypes have their influence on the circumstance how man and women behave during sexual relations.

Today in Republic of Armenia girls and women face gender discrimination, including gender violence, they are forced to implement traditional roles, have limitations in family planning possibilities.

Each of us has sexual rights, which includes sexual education, right to get information about infections and healthcare. Existing traditions and stereotypes about gender roles do not give an opportunity to women and girls to ensure the realization of their sexual and reproductive rights. The society expects woman to have passive role in issues regarding sexuality. As a rule women are criticized, stigmatized and discriminated if they try to make decisions with regard to their sexual life. The society does not accept when woman tries to take care of her health, have safe sexual behavior, make decisions about family planning due to the prejudiced attitude toward women’s active role in sexual life.

In case if we talk about gender equality and that each member of the society has to have equal opportunities, this kind of attitudes must be changed. When we talk about gender equality we can’t miss the fact that equality must be in all spheres of life including sexual life. There is a need to eliminate discrimination and break stereotypes by ensuring woman’s sexual and reproductive rights. Women have right to get appropriate, comprehensive information and education about sexual and reproductive health, which will give them an opportunity to make balanced decisions about their sexual life, protect their and their future children’s health.

The gaps in sexual and reproductive health education and vulnerable state of rights lead to the situation where many people in Armenian society do not consider themselves vulnerable in terms of HIV. Due to stereotypes and prejudice woman does not have a right to make decisions about her sexual and reproductive health, which makes her double vulnerable.

So we can conclude that societal stereotypes about the role of woman in sexual life put her and her future baby’s health under a threat and under the risk to be infected by HIV.

When we talk about woman vulnerability in terms of HIV there is a need to talk about female sex worker’s vulnerable and endangered situation as well. Sex workers face stereotyped and discriminative public attitude, which leads to their marginalization in the society. That brings to the vulnerable state of sex workers with regard to HIV infection.

Sew workers are not protected by law. They are not protected from violent actions of the ones who use their services. Those sex workers who undergo violence have few chances to be protected by the state. The lack of protection put sex workers under the risk of violence and in such environment HIV can easily spread.

It is also important to mention that due to stereotypes sex workers are deprived from healthcare, legal and social services. Due to discrimination and stereotypes they can have fear of applying to appropriate services. In this case they are more possessed to be infected by HIV and transmit it to the ones who use their services.