The spread of HIV/AIDS epidemic to women and girls in Europe
- Parliamentary Assembly
debate on 25 January 2007 (8th Sitting) (see Doc. 11108, report of the Committee on Equal Opportunities for
Women and Men, rapporteur: Mrs Fautrier). Text
adopted by the Assembly on 25 January 2007 (8th Sitting).
1. The Parliamentary Assembly is concerned
that, more than twenty-five years after it first broke out, the HIV/Aids
epidemic is continuing to spread, including in Europe. The apparent
inability of European governments to stop the spread of the disease
is particularly worrying, although they do appear to know how the
virus is transmitted and what type of behaviour is associated with
2. While there is a substantial heterogeneity in the epidemic
within and among European nations (the use of injectable drugs is
the main mode of transmission in eastern Europe, while sexual transmission
is the main mode in the rest of Europe), there is a common trend
in Europe as well as globally: more and more newly diagnosed HIV
infections are in women, particularly young women.
3. This should come as no surprise, as the epidemic started spreading
from “high-risk” groups (homosexuals, injectable-drug users and
prostitutes) to the general population a long time ago. However,
the discovery of tritherapy, a treatment able to considerably slow
down the development of the virus, seems to have led many people,
young adults in particular, to let down their guard. This attitude
can account for much of the increase in infections in young women.
4. However, this is not the only explanation. Physiologically,
women are more prone to the virus than men. Coupled with social
and economic dependence, sexist attitudes and domestic violence,
a deadly cocktail can develop: for women who are, in one way or
another, dependent on the men with whom they have sexual relations,
refusing sexual relations or insisting on the use of condoms may
not be an option.
5. The empowerment of girls and women in Europe is thus a key
factor in the fight against HIV/Aids. Girls and women must both
be properly informed of the risks associated with certain behaviour
and be put into a position where they have the power to act on this
information. Men also have a role to play in the fight against the
spread of the epidemic: they must dispense with certain harmful,
typically male forms of behaviour and work with women to break the
cycle of gender inequality and gender-based violence.
6. At the same time, it is important to tackle discrimination
against HIV-positive women and girls. HIV testing, in particular
pre-natal testing, must be confidential. It requires informed consent
and should be backed up with counselling and information on treatment
options (including treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission).
Access to such services should not depend on gender.
The Assembly recalls Resolution
on HIV/Aids in Europe, and recommends that the Committee
of Ministers ensure that a gender perspective is taken in all work on
HIV/Aids within the Council of Europe and its member states.
8. The Assembly recommends that the Council of Europe run a European
awareness-raising campaign to combat Aids in the near future, similar
to the one being run this year to combat domestic violence.
The Assembly furthermore recommends that the Council of Europe
and its member states focus their efforts on the following measures
to halt the spread of HIV/Aids to women and girls in Europe:
9.1 promote and develop school programmes,
including sex education, which take into account the specificities
of both sexes;
9.2 support the introduction of prevention programmes and
awareness-raising campaigns on HIV/Aids, in particular by ensuring
the dissemination of adequate and well-targeted information to young adults
via the media and other available information outlets;
9.3 implement gender-sensitive and human-rights-based testing
and treatment policies, including free access to full medical care,
which ensure that persons who are HIV-positive are recognised by social
9.4 fight discrimination against HIV-positive people, in particular
women, and put into place reinsertion programmes for HIV-positive
victims of this type of discrimination;
9.5 work at national and international level to establish
the legal and institutional frameworks which ensure the respect
for and the protection and exercise of the fundamental rights of
women and girls, including in Europe.
10. Furthermore, the Assembly recognises that programmes and policies
such as those set out in paragraph 9 above are likely to be more
successful if they involve, at both national and international level,
relevant civil society organisations and people living with HIV/Aids.