Thai representatives in the Women's Leader Forum will rally for
women's reproductive rights to be the focus of strategies to
tackle the HIV/Aids pandemic.
"Focusing on access to medicines or women's rights is not
enough," said Pornpich P Patanakullert, an MP from Narathiwat and
a physician by training.
"We need to focus on women's reproductive rights as most women
get HIV/Aids because they don't have these rights in the first
Dr Pornpich is one of the four women leaders from different
sectors in Thailand to attend the Women's Leaders Forum on
Tuesday, which will see women leaders from around the world
mapping out strategies to help women with HIV/Aids.
Statistics from the Public Health Ministry show that only 24% of
men use condoms with their wives and lovers. Women's inability to
say no makes them vulnerable to infection through unsafe sex.
Apart from empowering women to protect themselves in sexual
relations, reproductive rights also respect women's right to know
and to have a choice about their pregnancies.
Behind Thailand's Aids success story, mothers with HIV/Aids
suffer violations of their reproductive rights by being forced to
comply to state policies without having a say, said Chansuda
Suwanchandee from the Voice and Choice of Women Living with
Before the advent of state programmes to give medicines to
infected mothers, pregnant women whose blood test proved positive
were forced to have an abortion. "Now, abortion is prohibited.
They don't ask what we want, they don't give us information, and
they don't allow us to choose, said Mrs Chansuda.
Many women with HIV/Aids are also prohibited from becoming
pregnant if they want to retain access to medication, she said,
adding that they are also not told of various side effects that
might occur from certain Aids medicines.
To improve the situation, women with HIV/Aids must be allowed to
take part in every level of policy decision-making about
reproductive health, she said.
When women's reproductive rights are respected, the Aids
pandemic, which is gender-based, will improve by itself, she said.