I am honoured to be a Patron of Sophia Forum, which plays a vital role as a champion of the visions, voices and rights of women living with HIV in the UK and globally. Empowering women is critical in the effort to overcome HIV and /AIDS and improve health worldwide. There are huge gender power imbalances that increase the vulnerabilities of women and girls to violence, exploitation and stigma, and women also bear the main burden of caring for family and community members with HIV in families and communities. I am proud to have supported the Global Coalition on Women and AIDS and the Sophia Forum when it started out over a decade ago, and I urge you to join me in support of its vital work to address the many causes and consequences of HIV for women.
Video of Peter Piot speaking about us at our 10th anniversary event
I was on the inaugural steering committee of the UNAIDS Global Coalition on Women and AIDS (GCWA) with Lesley Bulman Lever, who at the time was the Chief Executive of the World Girl Guides and Girl Scouts Association. Since we were both based in the UK, we thought we would start a UK chapter of the GCWA. Lesley kick-started it by kindly hosting a meeting for the various women we knew at the Reform Club.
This led to the creation of Sophia Forum and we held our launch at the House of Commons, where Mary Robinson gave a wonderful and inspiring speech.
I feel so honoured now to have been asked to be a patron of Sophia. Sophia was the goddess of knowledge and wisdom. This is why we chose her name. We need both of these more than ever in order to pursue an effective response to HIV in the context of women’s rights.