The need to increase linkages between gender inequalities and HIV has been stressed as critical to advancing progress in health and across the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the launch of a new Centre for Gender and Global Health at University College London in the United Kingdom on 16 February.
Studies show that women living with HIV are particularly vulnerable to sexual, physical and psychological violence, and that gender inequalities, including lack of education and economic empowerment, also make women more vulnerable to HIV infection. Building on this growing body of evidence, experts at the launch emphasized that addressing gender inequalities must be mainstreamed across strategies, programmes and institutions in order to achieve the SDGs and to end the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat by 2030.
The new Centre for Gender and Global Health will work with policy-makers and policy-influencers to address the complex relationships between gender norms and health.
During the launch, speakers shared evidence on the inextricable links between gender and health. UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director Jan Beagle reflected upon institutional responses, calling on organizations to act on the evidence for the development of strategies, programmes and policies, both for an organizational focus and for the internal workings of institutions, for example with regard to staffing.
She recalled that at UNAIDS, the UNAIDS 2016–2020 Strategy and the Secretariat Gender Action Plan have prioritized gender equality, parity and the empowerment of women as fundamental to its progress on HIV and the impact across broader health, development and rights outcomes.
Noting the numerical targets and strategic focus areas of the Secretariat Gender Action Plan, Ms Beagle gave details of significant progress that has been achieved since its inception in 2013. Since the launch of the plan, the number of female Country Directors has risen from 15 (27%) to 26 (41%), and the Secretariat has nearly reached its target of 50% of women in middle management (48%). She emphasized that the progress within UNAIDS is part of a broader change agenda, through which the organizational culture is being transformed to strengthen a work environment that upholds diversity and opportunities for all.
“As global health institutions, we need to walk the talk. Through the UNAIDS Secretariat Gender Action Plan, we strive to build an organizational culture that empowers women and through which we will achieve parity among staff.”