The risk of contracting HIV increases approximately 50 percent in cases of domestic violence, according to UNAIDS. Women have become infected with HIV/AIDS as a result of physical and sexual violence they have suffered. Gender inequality and domestic violence means that women do not have the bargaining power to ensure safer sex. For example, a woman who is beaten is often unable to decline sex or to negotiate the use of condoms.
Sexual violence also increases the risk of HIV/AIDS transmission because of the physical injury and trauma a woman can experience during rape. Young women and girls are particularly at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS because of sexual violence, sex trafficking, and harmful practices, such as forced and child marriage.
Women living with HIV/AIDS are at risk of further violence, and they may be stigmatized by their family, community, and the system. Fear of this stigmatization may deter women from getting tested, accessing information, and obtaining services.
Advocacy efforts to address violence against women and HIV/AIDS have centered around educating the public about HIV/AIDS, implementing campaigns to encourage people to report sexual violence, and providing adequate and appropriate services and referral systems. Also important is ensuring appropriate criminal sanctions where violence against women is involved―including sexual violence that results in HIV transmission―and the incorporation of HIV/AIDS planning into other strategies and action plans designed to end violence against women.
For example, consider the initiatives of the Global Coalition on Women and AIDS, a worldwide alliance of civil society groups, networks or women living with HIV, women’s organizations, AIDS service organizations, and the United Nations system, that is committed to strengthening AIDS programming for women and girls. The Coalition supports efforts to:
- Provide universal education for girls;
- Secure women’s property and inheritance rights;
- Reduce violence against women;
- Prevent HIV infection by improving access to reproductive healthcare;
- Promote access to prevention options, including female condoms and microbicides;
- Ensure that women and girls have equitable access to treatment and care;
- Support women’s work as caregivers within the household and community; and
- Promote women’s leadership in the AIDS response.