Mujeres Adelante

Moving forward to AIDS 2010 in Vienna: Advancing women’s rights in the response to HIV and AIDS

We invite you to join our conversation as we move from AIDS2008 in Mexico City to AIDS2010 in Vienna. Mujeres Adelante is a newsletter on women’s rights and HIV that grows out of a history of shared organizing around gender and human rights – and of mobilizing women – at International AIDS Conference since Barcelona in 2002. Mujeres Adelante was the name of a collaboration between global advocates and a local HIV positive women’s organization in Barcelona to build a parallel conference embedded in the Barcelona community that would be free and open to the public.

Mujeres Adelante, the newsletter, is jointly produced by ATHENA and the AIDS Legal Network – and will be carrying forward the dialogue, discussion, and debates from Mexico City through the Sexual Violence Research Initiative Forum 2009 to the IAS HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment, and Prevention as we build toward AIDS2010 in Vienna.

We have three central goals for these newsletters:
One is to make International AIDS Conferences and related global forums accessible to community stakeholders and in so doing, to create mechanisms by which research, advocacy, and community meet.

The second is to mobilize around a ‘gender agenda’ and in so doing, to place women’s rights and gender equality at the heart of the AIDS response.

And in so doing, our third goal is to create a platform whereby contentious, neglected, and emerging issues in the AIDS response can be identified, debated, and addressed.

Mujeres Adelante manifests the desire of diverse stakeholders in the AIDS response to create a shared voice and vision around gender equality and women’s rights; to bridge movements; to link sectors; and to create channels through which local and global meet as well as the passion of women from around the world to interpret, own, and advance a rights-based response to HIV and AIDS.

Bringing new voices to the table: Hot topics and contentious debates at the SVRI Forum here

Is the AIDS response working for women?: Examining the gap between research and reality for women at the IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Prevention, and Treatment in Cape Town

SVRI Forum

Mujeres Adelante issue 06 July 09

Mujeres Adelante issue 09 July 09

IAS Conference in Cape Town

Mujeres Adelante issue 20 July 09

Mujeres Adelante issue 22 July 09


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In Greek mythology, ATHENA was the goddess of wisdom and war. Network members hope to indeed be guided by wisdom in the battle against HIV/AIDS. The Greek myths also say that ATHENA had a constant female companion, Nike, who was the personification of victory, something we are striving to achieve over the virus and its effects!
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Launch of ‘10 Reasons Why Criminalization of HIV Exposure or Transmission Harms Women’.

The legislative trend toward criminalizing HIV exposure or transmission undermines public health and women’s human rights.’

Tyler Crone, Co-Founder and Coordinating Director of the ATHENA Network.

Responding to current trends towards criminalizing HIV transmission and exposure, human rights and AIDS activists are raising concerns about the implications of these laws, especially for women.

Calling for rights-based approaches in the response to HIV and AIDS, the publication ‘10 Reasons Why Criminalization of HIV Exposure or Transmission Harms Women clearly illustrates how criminalizing HIV exposure or transmission – far from providing justice for women – endangers and further oppresses women. This document, with 21 original endorsing organizations from around the world, affirms the protection and advancement of women’s rights as key for effective HIV and AIDS responses, and opposes laws that criminalize HIV exposure or transmission.

Women continue to be disproportionately infected and affected by HIV and AIDS. More than half of all people living with HIV are women, and women continue to be at high risk of HIV infection and of related rights abuses. Thus, any response to HIV and AIDS should take into account the effects that the pandemic, and the responses to it, have upon women and women’s vulnerability to HIV infection. Given the gendered societal context in which laws that criminalize HIV transmission or exposure will be applied and implemented, it is more likely to be women who will be prosecuted and feel the consequences of such legislation.

Recently, more than 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa alone have passed legislation with clauses ranging from mandatory HIV testing and disclosure, to criminalizing exposure or transmission of HIV. Similar laws have been enacted, or are pending, in parts of Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. However, as argued by Johanna Kehler, Director of the AIDS Legal Network, South Africa:

‘What we need are interventions that address women’s HIV risks; not legislation that increases women’s vulnerabilities to HIV transmission and to rights abuses. We need laws that protect women’s rights and not tools that criminalize women. We need to focus on removing barriers to effective HIV responses, not on creating additional obstacles for women’s access to available HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support. Criminalizing HIV transmission is indeed ‘bad policy’; as it threatens human rights and harms women.’

While a call to apply criminal law to HIV exposure and transmission is often driven by a well intentioned wish to protect women, it does nothing to address the gender-based violence or the deep economic, social, and political inequalities that are at the root of women’s and girls’ disproportionate vulnerability to HIV.

‘Laws that criminalize HIV exposure and transmission will further victimize and oppress women; as these laws will aggravate the risk of violence and abuse, reinforce gendered inequalities, promote fear and stigma, and ultimately increase women’s risks to HIV and HIV-related rights abuses’ stated Michaela Clayton, Director of the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa.

Endorse 10 Reasons Why Criminalization of HIV Exposure or Transmission Harms Women’ by sending an email with your name, country of residence, and affiliated institution to

Bridging the Gap

Addressing Emerging Trends and Neglected Issues at the Intersection of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and HIV

ATHENA has launched the Bridging the Gap series at the Fourth National South African AIDS Conference.

  • ‘Mapping Emerging Trends and Neglected Issues at the Intersection of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and HIV’, as an outcome document from the ATHENA 2008 SRHR and HIV Retreat

  • Fact Sheet on ‘HPV, Cervical Cancer, and HIV: Screening and Prevention’, authored by Fiona Hale

  • Policy Brief ‘Developing a Human Rights Framework to Address Coerced Sterilization and Abortion: Articulating the Principle of Free and Informed Decision-Making’, authored by the Health Equity and Law Clinic, International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Program of the University of Toronto

  • Case Study ‘Documenting Human Rights Violations in Healthcare Settings: Experiences of HIV Positive Women in Namibia’, containing the direct documentation of Namibia Women’s Health Network members

  • Bridging the Gap report

These materials are part of a broader initiative to advance the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women living with HIV, particularly the right to safe, healthy motherhood and to reproductive choices. The broader initiative includes the on-going development of human rights frameworks, policy briefs, and fact sheets; the use of human rights mechanisms, including the United Nations Special Rapporteur; community-led documentation projects; capacity building; and community mobilization.

With support from the Packard Foundation Population Program, the ATHENA Network has formed and launched a Reference Group to identify and address emerging trends and neglected issues at the intersection of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and HIV, with a core focus on the priorities and perspectives of women living with, and affected by, HIV.

Current ATHENA Reference Group members include the AIDS Legal Network, Center for Reproductive Rights, Health Systems Trust, ICW, ICW Southern Africa, Ipas, Namibia Women’s Health Network, and the Salamander Trust.

Click the headlines to read


The ATHENA Network was created to advance gender equity and human rights in the global response to HIV and AIDS. Because gender inequity fuels HIV and HIV fuels gender inequity, it is imperative that women and girls – particularly those living with HIV – speak out, set priorities for action, and lead the response. ATHENA builds from a shared history of advocacy around International AIDS Conferences. The Barcelona Bill of Rights, promulgated by partners at the 2002 International AIDS Conference, is our framework for action.s.

ATHENA’s mission is to:

  • Advance the recognition, protection, and fulfillment of women’s and girls’ human rights, comprehensively and inclusively, as a fundamental component of the response to HIV and AIDS.
  • Ensure gender equity in HIV-related research, prevention, diagnosis, treatment, care, and the development interventions based on a gendered analysis.
  • Promote and facilitate the leadership of women and girls, especially those living with HIV, in all aspects of the response to HIV and AIDS.
  • Bridge the communities around the world that are addressing gender, human rights, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and HIV.

In advancing this mission, ATHENA aims to:

  • Address neglected or contentious human rights issues such as the sexual and reproductive rights of women living with HIV.
  • Link the global with the local in meaningful ways.
  • Link research, policy, advocacy, and practice.
  • Share information and experiences in order to develop common agendas.
  • Build alliances across movements, sectors, and regions.
  • Develop and support the leadership capacity of women and girls, especially those living with HIV.
  • Enable individuals and organizations to be agents of change.

As ATHENA Chair MariJo Vazquez (previous Chair of ICW) has remarked – “We empower others by sitting at the table together.” We hope you will join us in our effort to advance gender equity and human rights in the global response to HIV and AIDS. Mujeres adelante!

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This month, ATHENA is featuring work done by Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) USA. Click here for previous organizational member profiles.

ATHENA is a member of AWID (Association for Women's
Rights in Development) and WGNRR (Women's Global
Network for Reproductive Rights).

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ATHENA members
in action

Individual ATHENA members and organizations have been very active in recent months. Read about their here.

ATHENA and the Mexico AIDS Conference:
on this can be seen here

Click here to see a photo report of some ATHENA activities at the 2008 Mexico AIDS Conference

Copies of the news bulletin produced by the AIDS Legal Network of South Africa (ALN) and ATHENA Network members can be downloaded here or read online at this ALN website

A flyer describing the ATHENA Network can be downloaded by clicking here. ATHENA members can use this for promotional purposes at meetings and events you attend!.

Research agenda

ATHENA members
created a research
dealing with gender and HIV/AIDS


Updated Nov 30, 2023

ATHENA has a new
flyer describing the
network; download
it here!