WAGGGS part of new AIDS initiative launched today

23 November 2005

Breaking news

WAGGGS’ Chief Executive, Lesley Bulman-Lever, is part of a new initiative seeking HIV/AIDS policy change both in the United Kingdom and internationally.

The Sofia Forum, a network of women and organizations based in the United Kingdom, was launched at the House of Commons in London on 23 November. This network of women chose the name Sofia after the Greek goddess of knowledge and wisdom.

“Knowledge and wisdom are what is needed to fight the pandemic,” said Lesley.

Sofia is calling for four main areas of change: more extensive and creative HIV prevention efforts; better access to treatment, especially for women; support and a voice for women infected with HIV/AIDS; and a recommitment by organizations, governments and individuals to fight the pandemic.

“There is a sort of ‘AIDS fatigue’,” Lesley said. “Unless people recommit to the fight against AIDS we will have the same crisis as in Africa replicated all over the world. That’s my worst fear.”

Lesley became involved with Sofia because she is frustrated people are not taking the threat of an AIDS pandemic seriously.

“You could say I’m passionate, but I’m actually angry. I’ve seen firsthand in Africa the devastation AIDS is causing,” she said, “and I’ve seen the complacency in the rest of the world. I have heard presidents say ‘it won’t happen here’, but it will.”

There was a need for a network of women, specifically, because of the unique challenges women face in the fight against HIV/AIDS. For many women HIV/AIDS is unavoidable.

“If you can’t say no, you’re at risk,” Lesley said. The rate of HIV infection in women is rising much faster than that for men, yet women have less access to treatment.

WAGGGS has very clear policies on HIV/AIDS. Most of its 145 Member countries are performing prevention work with girls and young women, and offering support for those who are affected by and infected with HIV/AIDS.

“WAGGGS takes the holistic approach to HIV/AIDS,” Lesley said. “Girls and young women need to have full knowledge of all methods of prevention so they can make their own decisions.”

World AIDS Day takes place every 1 December to inspire people to be involved in and informed about the worldwide struggle against AIDS. Check back on the WAGGGS website 1 December for more information about World AIDS Day.