Women activists at the National Women's Dialogue in MalawiIn Malawi, women account for more than half of the almost one million people infected with HIV (57%). With 150,000 people in need of ART, Malawi is among the 20 countries identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as having the highest unmet need for treatment. In this context, policies and programs that have failed to factor in the intimate dynamics of gender inequality result in the exploitation of women’s traditional care-giving role and let governments and the international aid community off the hook for providing even the most basic healthcare.  Many Malawian women who receive ART face physical side effects that often lead to complications for women including health problems, stigma and discrimination.

The current ARV package in Malawi is rotten pie and it is the women who are eating the biggest chunk of that rotten pie because we outnumber men in population and also in infection statistics. Stavudine deposits a lot of fatty substances in our bodies and we end up with growths on different parts of our bodies like humps and bumps. We also get scars pimples and bulging tummies. ~ Tiwonge Gondwe, Malawi

Since 2008, women community‐based organizers across the country have been involved in an ongoing leadership and organizing process to enhance their capacity for strategic action at local level. While key victories include mobile ARV clinics to reduce women’s travel time and costs, a piece of land from a local chief, access to credit and seed coupons for positive women and a local campaign to stop violence against women, women have also transformed their personal lives. JASS’ sustained process of building the organizing capacity and leadership of activist leaders has brought women from diverse organizations and networks together to develop a national campaign to access better ART and treatment literacy, launched late 2012.

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