Women, violence and HIV

This is very much off-topic but is an area I feel quite strongly about.

Today I read the UN AIDS report Unite with women, unite against violence and HIV and wanted to share the highlights because I imagine that most people won’t be reading the report.  That said, I think you should read the report – it’s not very long and it’s well written.  If not, the following will take maybe a minute or two of your time.  Read it and become aware that there is an issue even if you don’t do anything else.

The five key points from the report are:

1. Violence against women is a human rights violation. So you’re thinking, well yes, of course it is but did you know that the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that one in three women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. This figure ranges from 27% in the WHO European Region to 46% in the African Region.  Just because we live in a world of number numbness, that’s one in three women.
2. Women who experience violence are more likely to acquire HIV.  For example, women who are in an abusive relationship are less likely to negotiate condom use.  Transmission as a result of rape is a very direct way in which violence can lead to acquiring HIV.  Because experiencing violence isn’t enough… So those one in three women who experience violence are more likely to acquire HIV.  This isn’t just people in far off countries that we think of but don’t relate to.  This happens all over the world.
3. Women living with HIV are more likely to be subjected to violence.  This includes forced sterilizations and abortions.  So one in three women experience violence, they are then more at risk of getting HIV, then if they get HIV, they are more likely to experience violence.
4. Women most vulnerable to HIV are also most vulnerable to violence.  For example, people working in sex industries or experiencing substance misuse are more at risk of violence and also more at risk of HIV.
5. Violence undermines the HIV response by creating a barrier to accessing services. I came across a story of a woman who wasn’t always able to take her medication at the required time because her partner frequently locked her in a room.   Controlling behaviour from those around women can prevent them from accessing services.  Another example is fear of violence as a result of disclosing their status.  Going back to that one woman out of three – she may have experienced violence which lead to HIV which lead to more violence and now she’s struggling to access services to help her.

(Stats etc also came from ‘16 Ideas for addressing violence against women in the context of the HIV epidemic‘.)

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