‘Education is the social vaccine that can combat AIDS’ Fr Michael Kelly, speaks about the AIDS crisis internationally

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Conference on ‘Health and Gender Equity in a Period of Global Crisis’ in Galway, jointly organised by the Development Studies Association (DSA) Ireland, Irish Forum for Global Health & Gender ARC on the eve of World AIDS Day,December 1st.

Fr. Michael Kelly, based in Zambia, is a noted AIDS activist who has written and spoken extensively about the need to curb the spread of AIDS, using education as a ‘social vaccine’ to empower women to make informed choices.

 Fr. Kelly presents the keynote speech on ‘Gender, Sexuality and HIV’ at a major conference on ‘Health and Gender Equity in a Period of Global Crisis’ on 28-29 November, ahead of World AIDS Day on 1st December. The conference is being held in the Galway Bay Hotel & Conference Centre, Salthill, Galway.

Fr. Michael Kelly says “Gender inequalities continue to be a major driving force behind the AIDS epidemic. Many factors increase the vulnerability of women and girls to HIV, such as denying women sexual health knowledge as well as practices that prevent them from controlling their bodies or deciding the terms on which they have sex. This is made worse by their limited access to economic opportunities and the multiple household and community roles they are saddled with, as can be seen very clearly in my own country Zambia”.

The conference is hosted by NUI Galway and jointly organised by the Development Studies Association (DSA) Ireland, Irish Forum for Global Health & Gender Advanced Research Consortium and sponsored by Irish Aid. The conference heard that health, gender and employment issues are emerging as major challenges as the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) period draws to a close in 2015. 

The speakers described how the current economic downturn has affected poorer countries, worsening their problems and reversing earlier improvements in gender and health equality in the developing world. 

Olivia Mitchell TD, member of the Women’s All-Party Interest Group on Development and Sexual Reproductive Health & Rights said “the participation of women is indispensable to development that is sustainable and equitable. Barriers to women’s participation must be addressed and initiatives to bring about the advancement of women must be prioritised. Unless women’s reproductive health is central to development policy, the poorest women in the most disadvantaged societies will continue to be trapped in cycles of poverty and ill health, to the detriment of their countries’ development. When women’s reproductive health needs are met, women can transform their countries’ future.”

Speaking on the importance of the decent work agenda in the post MDG period, Sally Anne Kinahan, Deputy General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions said “Workers’ rights and a decent work agenda are crucial if we are to deliver on development.  Development and decent work are inextricably linked”.

The conference brought new perspectives from the emerging large economies of Brazil and India to the discussion of global development prospects. Dr Ram Reddy, editor of the popular Indian publication, The Economic and Political Weekly, spoke about the role of democratic institutions, giving an assessment of what is happening in India, while Sue Branford of Latin America Bureau discussed striking trends of reducing poverty and lessening inequality in Brazil.

Leading experts stress how the on-going economic crisis from 2008 creates a significant challenge to women and men across the globe with adverse effects on health and gender inequality.  The gaps between rich and poor and between men and women are widening between and within countries.

While the provision and access to quality health services has improved for some people, overall economic, food and fuel poverty create negative effects on physical and mental health, making poor people more vulnerable and affecting the ability of individuals and communities to cope.

-Ends-

Keywords: Press

Author: Marketing and Communications Office, NUI Galway
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