Violence Against Women and HIV/AIDS
Last updated August 2013
Violence against women is strongly linked to women's vulnerability to HIV infection. Women’s vulnerability to the virus is due to a combination of factors that include their biological constitution, cultural norms, and socioeconomic disadvantages.  At the center of these vulnerabilities is violence against women, a problem that persists throughout the globe and is strongly associated with the increasing numbers of infected women. 
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), violence against women increases a woman’s risk of HIV infection. In 2008 the WHO noted that “violence affects every aspect of a country’s HIV/AIDS plan: from access to prevention tools and the ability to use them, to access to care.”   Globally, between 10% and 69% of women have been physically assaulted by their partners, and between 6% and 59% have experienced sexual assault.[1]  UNAIDS , the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, reports that in 2011, globally, more than 50% of people living with HIV are women, rising to 60% in sub-Saharan Africa.[2]   
Sexual violence can occur directly, through forced sex, and indirectly, through the powerlessness of women in negotiating the terms on which sexual encounters take place.  Regardless of the form sexual violence takes—whether it be human trafficking, prostitution, marital rape, or intimate partner violence—the cause of HIV infection in women stems from the reality that most “women lack control over their bodies and their daily lives, and the tools, resources, and support needed to change their situation” (Kathleen Cravero, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director, in a 2004 speech).
In 2011 UNAIDS released a Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS with specific targets for 2015. These targets include: elimination of gender inequalities and gender-based abuse and violence and increasing the capacity of women and girls to protect themselves from HIV, as well as the elimination of stigma and discrimination against people living with and affected by HIV by promoting laws and policies that ensure the full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Gender inequality and the disempowerment of women and girls have contributed significantly to the rampant spread of HIV. Moreover, women living with HIV also often face more stigma than men living with HIV. Although data shows that for example in India, nearly 80% of the women widowed by AIDS had been infected by their husbands, women are also frequently blamed for bringing HIV into the household and often are evicted from their homes and experience other violations related to their property.[3]

[2] UNAIDS. 2010. Report on the Global Epidemic.
[3] Tools for change. Applying United Nations standards to secure women’s housing, land, and property rights in the context of HIV, UN Commission on the Status of Women, 2010.