Adopted by the 53rd WMA General Assembly, Washington, DC, USA, October 2002,
revised by the 64th WMA General Assembly, Fortaleza, Brazil, October 2013
and by the 72nd WMA General Assembly (online), London, United Kingdom, October 2021
Since the start of the global HIV epidemic, women and girls in many regions have been disproportionately affected by HIV. Young women (aged 15-24), and adolescent girls (aged 10-19) in particular, account for a disproportionate number of new HIV infections.
Gender inequality contributes to the spread of HIV. It can increase infection rates and reduce the ability of women and girls to cope with the illness. Often, they have less information about HIV and fewer resources to take preventive measures. Sexual violence, a widespread violation of women’s rights, exacerbates the risk of HIV transmission.
Many women and girls living with HIV struggle with stigma and exclusion, aggravated by their lack of rights. Women widowed by AIDS or living with HIV may face property disputes with in-laws, complicated by limited access to justice to uphold their rights. Regardless of whether they themselves are living with HIV, women generally assume a disproportionate burden of care for others who are sick from or dying of AIDS, along with the orphans left behind. This, in turn, can reduce prospects for education and employment. It can also significantly reduce prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) efforts and strategies.
Access to healthcare, including both preventative and therapeutic strategies, is a fundamental human right. This imposes an obligation on government to ensure that these human rights are fully respected and protected. Gender inequalities must be addressed and eradicated. This should impact every aspect of healthcare.
The promotion and protection of the reproductive rights of women are critical to the ultimate success of confronting and resolving the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
The WMA requests all national member associations to encourage their governments to undertake and promote the following actions:
- Develop empowerment programs for women of all ages to ensure that women are better supported and free from discrimination. Such programs should include universal and free access to reproductive health education and life skills training,
- Develop programme to provide HIV testing and post-exposure prophylaxis in the form of antiretrovirals to all survivors of assault.
- Governments must provide universal access to antiviral therapy and treatment to all HIV infected women, protecting their health, and in the case of pregnant women, preventing mother to child transmission.
- Provide universal HIV testing of all pregnant women, with patient notification of the right of refusal, as a routine component of perinatal care, and such testing should be accompanied by privacy protection, basic counseling and awareness of appropriate treatment, if necessary.
- Patient notification should be consistent with the principles of informed consent. Universal and free access to antiretroviral therapy must also be provided to all HIV-positive pregnant women in order to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV.