The newly launched Southern Africa UN Task Force on HIV/AIDS will focus on the impact of the pandemic on women and children. The task force was announced this past week.
Task force member Nkandu Luo says there are not enough HIV/AIDS programs designed for women and children.
Professor Luo, who is also the chairperson of the Society for Women and AIDS in Zambia, says this has been her concern for more than ten years now.
"There are certain women in Africa, who as far back as 1988 and I was one of them, who actually realized that we were not addressing the issues of women and that’s how we formed the Society of women and AIDS in Africa which is way back in 1988. And you can imagine if we had done something about it in 1988, today we would not be talking about the levels of infection that we have."
Official statistics in Zambia indicate that women are the most affected with 52% of them being HIV positive.
Professor Luo has expressed fear that infections are likely to increase among children due to rampant reports of sexual abuse cases. Almost every day, the Zambian media are carrying a story on children that are being sexually assaulted by adults.
"In trying to articulate this problem, we should not forget that women are the major culprits in all this. There’s a lot of defilements and incest going on in homes. In fact married women prefer to keep quiet to preserve their marriages and also sometimes they choose to throw the daughter out and protect the husband."
There are some non-governmental organisations involved in women and children’s anti-AIDS programs. But some officials in these organisations are not satisfied with their activities.
Daphetone Siame is the country program director for International Alliance Against HIV/AIDS.
"In terms of looking at the impact, most of them are focusing on income generation. But that’s one program that has particularly failed in Zambia simply because most of these women, even these children, they do not have ideas on how to run a business and so on."
A few weeks ago, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan sent a special envoy to the Southern Africa region to check on the AIDS and food situations. During his stay in this region, Stephen Lewis visited several parts of this country as well as other countries in Southern Africa.
Upon his return to New York, the Secretary General decided to form a task force to address the impact of the pandemic on both women and children. The task force has a total of 27 members: each country in the Southern African region has three representatives.
Zambia is represented by its health minister Brian Chituwo, Supreme Court Judge Lombe Chibesakunda and Professor Nkandu Luo.