WOMEN, THE LAW, AND HIV/AIDS IN AFRICA: A CONUNDRUM FOR THE LEGISLATURE?
Shu-Acquaye / Mbanya / Chungong
Since the discovery of AIDS in 1981, the pandemic has ravaged through all continents of the world, but the impact has been greatest in Sub Saharan Africa where 68% of the world's infected persons live. Women are hardest hit with 50% of infected adults in 2007 being women. There are currently 13.3 million women living with HIV and AIDS in Sub Saharan Africa, making it critical to further focus attention on women of the region. This book attempts to highlight the plight of these women, and the challenges they face daily within their particular societal context.
With the advent of and access to antiretroviral drugs and improved technology in the management of HIV and AIDS, it has been rendered a chronic disease in developed countries, but not so in Sub Saharan Africa.
The first chapter of this book examines the epidemiology, manifestations and general management of the problem in a setting where prevention and access to antiretroviral drugs has been compounded in many ways by various factors including poverty and lack of regulations that govern rights.
The socio-cultural dimensions are examined, reflecting the impact of HIV/AIDS on women, and the urgent need for relevant policies and legislation in the African continent. The law inevitably plays an important role and the issue in most cases is not whether there is an acceptable or even applicable law in place, but whether is enforced. This book illustrates that there exist many good laws both at domestic and international treaty levels to address many of the challenges women face in Africa. The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), one such existing international treaty, is among the strongest women's rights treaties, with many African countries signatory to it. This has not alleviated the predicaments of many African women, who are still suffering from all kinds of discrimination in virtually every aspect of their lives. Regional human rights initiatives, such as the Human and People's Rights Commission, which is charged by the African Charter to promote human rights and ensure their protection in Africa, as well as the African Court of Human Rights, which is mandated to be knowledgeable about all aspects concerning the interpretation and application of the charter, put forward in their provisions protection for the women. Again, the challenge is how to prompt African States to respect and implement women's rights in a sustained manner. This is critical for African countries, where, without government commitment, successful implementation would be uncertain, possibly unachievable.
This book highlights the need for the governments to forge partnerships not only with their own officials, and other stakeholders but also with women and various women representative groups. The contributions of women to policy discussions on HIV/AIDS should be systematically solicited. Strategies, policies and activities to reverse the AIDS pandemic in the continent cannot succeed unless women are empowered to meaningfully contribute and participate to these, and are an integral part of the leadership that sets the agenda for change and development.
Florence Shu-Acquaye, is a Professor of Law at Nova Southeastern University, Shepard Broad Law Center (since 2000), where she teaches Business Entities, Contracts, UCC Sales, Negotiable Instruments and Comparative Corporate Governance. She also teaches in the Masters in Health and Education Law Programs. Professor Shu-Acquaye holds an LL.B and a DEA (Diplômes d'Etudes Approfondie), a post-graduate diploma from the University of Yaoundé, an LL.M from Harvard Law School, a JSM and a JSD from Stanford Law School. Professor Shu-Acquaye has several publications, but is particularly passionate about women in Africa and in particular those affected by HIV/AIDS. This book was inspired by the time she spent in Cameroon on Sabbatical working with the Society for Women and AIDS in Africa (SWAA), an African Organization dedicated to addressing the problems faced by women with HIV/AIDS. She was a 2007 recipient of the Quiet Storm Award in recognition of the work she did with SWAA. She sits on a number of boards, but is most honoured to serve on the Community Hope Center board, an outreach ministry to the Broward County community.
Professor Dora MBANYA is Associate Professor of Hematology in the Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in the University of Yaoundé I, Cameroon and Consultant Hematologist and Chief of Service in the Hematology and Transfusion Service of the University Teaching Hospital in Yaoundé, Cameroon. Her major interest is in Transfusion Medicine and HIV/AIDS-related issues in Sub Saharan Africa. As part of her contribution to community services, she is currently the National President of the Society for Women and AIDS in Africa where she participates in reaching the community at various levels in an attempt to impact their lives positively. She has been an active member of the Cameroon Medical Women's Association where she has held several posts of responsibility. Professor Mbanya is holder of an MD from the University Center for Health Sciences (CUSS), Yaoundé, Cameroon, a "Diplôme Universitaire" in Transfusion Medicine under the University of Abidjan in Cô´te d'Ivoire and a Ph.D in Medicine (Hematology) from the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK.
Dr Stella Chungong, is a Medical Epidemiologist, currently working as the Technical Coordinator for National Surveillance System Strengthening and Monitoring for the International Health Regulations (IHR), in World Health Organization, Geneva. Prior to this position, Dr Chungong worked within the Global Influenza Programme. She has also worked as a coordinator of the Epidemiological Surveillance Team within the WHO Lyon Office of the Department of Communicable Disease Surveillance and Response (CSR). Dr Chungong has worked with both developing countries and developed countries, supporting the development of guidance, policies and strategies for national surveillance system strengthening for communicable diseases including HIV/AIDS. She has also worked in various other areas such as nutrition, particularly on nutritional assessments, access to drugs and other amenities for women in Sub-Saharan Africa, and is interested in gender related issues that affect health. She is a member of the Cameroon Medical Women's Association. She holds an MD from the University Center for Health Sciences (CUSS), Yaoundé, Cameroon, a Diploma in Community Medicine from the University of Geneva, Switzerland and an MPH from the University of Leeds in the UK.