Together we must... End Violence Against Women and Girls and HIV and AIDS

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Violence against women and girls (VAWG) and HIV&AIDS represent two of the greatest dangers to the health, well-being and productivity of women worldwide. Threats and violence limit women’s ability to negotiate safer sex and to control the terms of their sexual encounters. Women and girls are two to four times more likely to contract HIV during unprotected sex than men because their sexual physiology places them at a higher risk of injury, and because they are more likely to experience violent or coercive sexual intercourse. Similarly, because HIV-related prejudice may manifest itself in the form of violence, HIV-positive women may experience violence at higher rates than other women. Indeed, a woman’s decision about whether to be tested for HIV, and whether to disclose the results, may be influenced by actual or perceived threats to her safety. Fear of violence, discrimination, abandonment and loss of economic support are commonly cited factors that keep women from learning their HIV status. This lack of knowledge also hinders women living with HIV from receiving treatment, care and support. Because violence against women and HIV&AIDS are mutually reinforcing pandemics, the need and the opportunity for integrated approaches addressing their intersection is increasingly evident. To date, however, such strategies have not been implemented on a widespread scale. Advocates and communities working on HIV&AIDS and VAWG are just beginning to come together to explore common strategies. This report highlights key elements to consider in such strategies, by profiling organizations that employ human rights and gender-sensitive approaches to the dual pandemics; that empower marginalized sectors of society; that promote community ownership; that build the capacity of civil society; that encourage cross-sectoral integration; and that facilitate linkages between advocates and activists within the HIV&AIDS and VAWG movements. Together We Must! is organized around four broad-based strategies for tackling the intersection: community mobilization to transform harmful gender norms; engagement of marginalized groups that are often more vulnerable to the twin pandemics; development of integrated approaches to support and care; and advocacy for greater accountability among funding agencies and policy makers. Together, these strategies offer valuable lessons and promising practices for other organizations and highlight the need for formal evaluations of initiatives to better understand and enhance their impact.


Deborah McKinney

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