We hear from Five Young Latin American & Caribbean Feminists on what it would take to End AIDS.

HASHTAGS: #HLM2016AIDS #WhatWomenWant #YAFDialogues #SRHRDialogues #EndingAIDS #WeAreTheEpidemic #TheAfricaWeWant

#WhatWomenWant campaign is a collaborative effort launched by the ATHENA Network. The Campaign aims to engage activists and advocates in women’s civil society & feminist organizations to contribute towards renewed leadership and drive momentum toward realizing the vision, priorities and rights of women and girls in all of their diversity and to end HIV as a public health emergency. The objective of #WhatWomenWant is to utilize the political moment at hand presented by the newly adopted SDGs and the upcoming High Level Meeting on AIDS to ensure that women’s priorities for HIV prevention; freedom from violence, an end to GBV and sexual and reproductive health and rights are amplified and reflected in the Political Declaration to be produced at the High Level Meeting. ATHENA and partners aims for this global virtual conversation to place women and girls squarely at the center of all agendas, to provide a platform for operationalizing gender equality in the HIV movement and outside of it, and to catalyze cross-movement dialogue and action toward what truly works for women and girls in their diversity.

1. What do you see as the current gaps in the HIV response for women and girls and what are key barriers and enablers to accessing HIV/SRHR services?  

Gaps in the HIV response stem from the lack of engagement with the multiple underlying determinants for women’s, children and adolescents health. We cannot shy away from addressing poverty, structural gender inequality and distribution of power if we want to tackle the gaps. We need to acknowledge the fact that improving health requires actions well outside the health sector, through a multi-sectoral approach. Health programs that perpetuate these gaps and fail to incorporate an intersectional analysis that considers the diversity of experiences women face are not likely to achieve the desired results. This is an important and much needed advance in ensuring that we recognize and measure the correlation between health and the experiences of people in different areas of their lives. These correlations are complex, intersecting and vast, but absolutely essential to bridge the gaps- Lucia Berro, Uruguay

2. What effective strategies have worked in your community to prevent and address GBV in all its forms? What laws do you think need to be strengthened or repealed to help prevent and address GBV, and to protect the rights of women and girls in all of our diversity?

In Mexico more than 900,000 women and girls have been killed violently from 2010 to 2016. This places my country, along with 9 other Latin American countries, among the 25 countries with the highest rate of femicides. We have had several campaigns launched by the federal government addressing gender based violence that provide hotlines with medical and psychological help but ultimately, I do believe that the only way to tackle GBV is to address gender stereotypes and challenge gender roles, which is the only real way to tackle the machismo culture that permeates this country and enables men to feel that they "own" women, and women's bodies- Marisol Ruiz, Mexico

3. How can young women be supported to break structural barriers that hinder the progress towards gender equality?

Young women like me need to be supported to overcome the barriers that get in the way of our participation and our leadership. To support us, first, we need to acknowledge the gender imbalances that exist in positions of decision-making and power across the various spheres that we operate in. Without specifically calling out the imbalances and the reasons for why they exist, we cannot address these imbalances. Second, we need to create spaces for us to build our capacity as leaders and exercise our leadership abilities in the spheres that we don’t normally operate in. Third, we need to recognize that for young women to step into leadership roles, others need to step back and share the power they hold. This is often the hardest part because it requires assessing and shifting the power dynamics- Ana Aguilera, Mexico.

4. Why do we need a feminist HIV Response?

We need a feminist HIV response to meet the needs of girls and young women. This is because they are the ones most affected by HIV. We need a response that can address gender inequalities as a major barrier, and can involve women and girls in all their diversity. A feminist response implies that we are aware of the structural causes of HIV transmission, it puts on the table the intersections and the risk of contracting HIV, it's not the same to experience risk as a black woman, or indigenous, or a woman living with disability, the same for access to prevention and treatment. The HIV response movement should not be afraid to identify as feminist - Genesis Luigi, Venezuela.

5. The world will meet in June at the High Level Meeting on AIDS 2016. What is one of thing you would like to see come out of this meeting? (Especially that it happens after adoption of SDGs)

Just recently, in Guyana, the Minister of Public Health disclosed that there are approximately 8000 people infected with HIV and that there are 500 new cases. It is with hope that there will be a more robust approach to eliminate HIV/AIDS altogether and for much emphasis to be placed on the role of young people in combating HIV and protecting themselves. Also, I am keen to follow on the approach and how the issue of gender equality and equal access to SRH services will be addressed/ executed- Chelsie France, Guyana.