Gender-Based Violence and HIV/AIDS

Today is World AIDS day, and it is also the 7th day of 16 Days of Activism, a campaign in which Mothers’ Union members worldwide have been partaking. Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is not just a major problem in its own right; it is also having an effect on the spread of HIV.  The World Health Organisation has stated that “Violence against women constitutes an urgent public health problem worldwide, particularly in the context of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.” According to UNAIDS, women who have experienced violence are up to three times more likely to be infected with HIV than those who have not. Statistics by the United Nations also show that younger woman in places such as Africa are more likely to experience physical or sexual violence than older women and it tends to be directed from an intimate partner. Violence increases the risk of HIV infection on women for a number both physiological and psychological reasons;

  • Biologically women are more vulnerable to infection and forced sex further increases the risk of HIV transmission to women due to tears and lacerations, particularly in adolescent girls.
  • The threat of violence can also lead women to be less able to have the power to negotiate safe sex, to refuse unwanted sex
  • The fear of being further isolated from their communities can lead to reluctance in getting tested. This lack of testing means that many are not being treated for the infection
  • A survey in 2005 found that, even when diagnosed, 60 percent of HIV positive women at a Zambian clinic refused to receive treatment because they feared violent behavior and abandonment by their family.  

Medical professionals and governments are becoming ever more aware of these problems, and reducing GBV is actually one of the five gender strategies promoted through the US Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS relief. This brief, created to assist HIV programme planners and implementers, facilitates the integration of GBV and HIV prevention programmes.  But it’s not just those at the top who are helping, around the world Mothers’ Union are working hard to try and prevent GBV as well as the spread of HIV/AIDS;

  • In high-endemic HIV/AIDS regions Mothers’ Union hold training events to raise awareness of the disease and prevention, and tackle prejudice within communities.
  • Mothers’ Union health clinics offer low-cost medicines, information, support and advice to those living with HIV/AIDS about home-care and staying well.
  • Mothers’ Union assists HIV/AIDS affected and bereaved families, providing sustainable agriculture and income generation projects, and orphan care.
  • Within the wider community Mothers’ Union carries out advocacy, sexual health education and HIV/AIDS training. This is where key education around GBV and HIV/AIDS is carried out. Mothers’ Union have funded HIV/AIDS work in countries such as Ghana, Burundi, Kenya, Sierra Leone, and Uganda, and supported many more local level programmes through volunteering, advocacy and locally-raised funding.

Gender-Based Violence needs to stop, but its link with the increase of HIV infections only strengthens our resolve to act.

If you would like to become involved in the 16 Days of Activism Campaign then you can find out more here.