By: Meghan Vallee, President, Amnesty International – UA Chapter
This is the first year that Amnesty International, University of Alberta Chapter has had the opportunity to partner with HIV Edmonton as advocates for human rights, as they relate to HIV and AIDS. With so many conflicts and examples of oppression going on in the world, it is difficult to stay engaged and up to date on each issue. October 11th is International Day of the Girl Child and for one day, we remind ourselves of the violations of human rights that women and girls experience in everyday life, within every part of the world. Amnesty International has, through their Women’s Human Rights Campaign, shed light on the numerous human rights abuses that are taking place both internationally, as well as in Canada, that are specific to women and girls.
When it comes to women and girls, sexual health and HIV, the “My Body, My Rights” campaign, focuses on women’s sexual and reproductive health. According to the Amnesty International article, Why Should I Care About Sexual and Reproductive Rights?, “young people aged 15-24 account for 41% of all new HIV infections among the 15-49 age group. Nearly 3000 young people [become] infected with HIV every day. And yet, only 34% of youth (24% of young women and 36% of young men) in developing countries can answer correctly the five basic questions about HIV and how to prevent it, far below the global target of 95%.”
Globally, “young women are at a higher risk of HIV infection than young men: there are almost twice as many young women living with HIV. Specifically, in Sub-Saharan Africa, young women make up 71% of [those] living with HIV.” There are many examples of violations of human rights that are directly related to these staggering numbers: lack of access to education and health services, as well as a lack of access to, and infrequent use of, contraceptives due to fear, sexual violence, child marriages, and abuse in relationships.
In Canada, Aboriginal people make up 4% of the Canadian population but make up 12% of total new HIV infections, with Aboriginal women disproportionately represented as 50% of those infected are women. Rates of HIV infection among Aboriginal women continue to climb with new epidemics emerging in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. This is why the work that HIV Edmonton does in the community is so vital!
In a world with so much need and too much pain, International Day of the Girl Child allows us to focus on our young women and girls across the globe. Our hope, at Amnesty International – University of Alberta Chapter, is that we will use this day to educate ourselves of the various human rights abuses that women and girls endure on a daily basis and how we can stop these violations from happening. Women’s rights are human rights and we need to figure out a way to tackle the oppression faced by women, in order to see a decrease in HIV infections worldwide.
Amnesty International – University of Alberta Chapter will be advocating alongside HIV Edmonton for World AIDS Day this year! If you would like to learn more about the Amnesty International – University of Alberta Chapter, please visit our website.
Comparison of HIV Incidence Rates Among Key Populations in Canada, 2011, Public Health Agency of Canada 2014