Since 2000, the Women’s Networking Zone (WNZ) has provided an alternative free space for women to meet and share ideas alongside the main conference. In doing this, women are able to open up new dialogues around challenges that women face, in an inclusive and non-discriminative space. The Women’s Networking Zone identifies key issues that affect women in relation to HIV and AIDS including stigma and discrimination, motherhood, sex and sexuality, gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive rights, criminalisation of women with HIV, harm reduction issues, rights of people in LGBTI communities and sex workers’ rights.
Leading up to the XIII International AIDS Conference in Durban, women leaders and advocates recognised that many of the issues affecting women with HIV and AIDS were sadly overlooked in the main conference. In order to combat this issue the The Women’s Caucus of the International AIDS Society (IAWC) and the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS (ICW) built the foundation for the Women’s Networking Zone creating the satellite conference titled Women at Durban. Women at Durban was the first ever satellite conference, at an International AIDS conference, specifically designed to create a space in which difficult issues specific to women could be discussed. This satellite conference has set the precedent and foundations for today’s Women’s Networking Zone and Working Group which aims to give a greater voice and opportunity to women around the world affected by HIV and AIDS.
The ATHENA Network was instrumental in developing the WNZ into what is has become today. Each event has been built on the skills and knowledge of women living with HIV and their supporters around the world.