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Women's right to choose seen as key in Aids battle


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 place."

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 HIV/Aids Project.

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.


Copyright © 2004 -Bangkok Post, Publisher. All rights reserved to The Bangkok Post. Reproduction of this article (other than one copy for personal reference) must be cleared through the Bangkok Post.

Information in this article was accurate in July 9, 2004. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.