Yvonne Scruggs-Leftwich, a professor at the National Labor College and well known urban policy analyst, has a must-read commentary at Women’s eNews about an issue that should be receiving more attention than it does: HIV-AIDS and women:

It’s July Fourth, the day to celebrate the fundamental principles of the Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson and adopted by the American Colonies on this day in 1776.

Because the declaration’s meaning has been broadened over the years, today in the United States we are less uncomfortable with its most popular promise " … that all men are created equal." After all, in
1920 when women won the right to vote, we figured that we pretty much had gotten past the "men" thing by enfranchising the other 50 percent of the population: women.

Women are still working on "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," however.

That being the case, there is no better time than today to consider the importance of what’s going on right now in Kenya.

At a historic meeting starting today in Nairobi, more than 1,500 women and their supporters are gathered for the first international meeting on HIV-AIDS and women. It’s appropriate that the first global
conference on women and AIDS is taking place in Africa and is being co-sponsored by one of the largest and oldest women’s organizations in the world, the World Young Women’s Christian Association, the YWCA,
headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

"The AIDS pandemic, particularly as it affects women, is a high priority of the World YWCA," says Dr. Lorraine Cole, CEO of the YWCA
USA.

It should also be a focal point in our contemplations of Independence Day here in the United States.

Because this is the hard, cold truth: AIDS is the number one cause of death of African American women between the ages of 25 and 34. But it practically takes fireworks to get out that message.

Sen. Hillary Clinton made some noise last week during the third Democratic presidential candidate debate, which focused on race and topics of particular concern to the black community. "Let me just put this in perspective," Clinton said in response to a question about AIDS. "If HIV/AIDS were the leading cause of death of white women between the ages of 25 and 34, there would be an outraged outcry in this country."

But as Yvonne Scruggs-Leftwich goes on to note, addressing the issue within and especially outside the United States is going to require comprehensive and sustained efforts, as the threats to women’s health and safety provide significant challenges:

In the United States, conservative estimates indicate that about 200,000 women — mostly black and Hispanic — are infected, representing 20 percent of all persons with HIV-AIDS.

One-third of these women are more likely than men to die of the disease. Beyond the United States, millions more women have lost their lives or are living a death sentence because they have AIDS and because they are devalued and because they are non-white.

Many are physically dehumanized by chauvinistically repressive cultures, by the imperative of sex-for-survival from starvation and death, and by the conflict-driven conversion of rape into a war-torn
weapon of mass destruction. Through these and other means women’s bodies — particularly on the African continent — are the vehicles for the deadliest forms of male dominance and supremacy.

Read the rest here.

Christine

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