Activists Recognize Link between Violence and HIV/AIDS
Tuesday, February 13, 2007 11:43 AM

At the World Social Forum (WSF) in Nairobi, Kenya, activists continually raised concerns about the links between violence against women and the spread of HIV/AIDS, especially in Asia and Africa.  There is a call on governments to enact laws and regulations to protect women against violence, especially in marital or intimate relationships.

Because women in many areas are not able to negotiate sex, even within a marital relationship, activists express concern for women's vulnerability and exposure to the disease.  For instance, women will not refuse sex for fear of violence, and, even if they do, may experience rape from their partner.  At the same time, women's decreased power position also limits their ability to require their partners to wear a condom, putting them at risk for infection. 

Advocates from Asia discussed abuse and risks sex workers face.  Though a woman negotiates sex with one man, she may be expected to have sex with three or four, then beaten and raped if she refuses.  This is a problem, since many workers only carry two condoms.  Men will usually insist on sex, and may, in turn, use some other unreliable source, such as sugar bags.

More than half of HIV cases are in sub-Saharan Africa, and women make up a higher percentage of those cases than men.  In addition, women often face abuse if their husbands find out they submitted for an HIV test, making confidentiality a huge concern.  While some women know their partner is HIV-positive, men often refuse to be tested because they fear the stigma associated with the disease.  In Indonesia, most men reported being offended when their partner requested an HIV test, since they associate infection with only high risk groups.

Since treatment and counseling are expensive and stigmatized, drugs (anti-retroviral treatments) are often shared.  Experts warn that this may cause immunity to more affordable drugs, and make the only treatment available cost up to ten times more.      

While there have been some laws to address domestic violence, advocates insist that these are not enough.  The persistent fear associated with violence at home in response to HIV testing must receive more specific attention.  Activists insist on the importance of male participation to end the violence and stigmatization that increase the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Compiled from: Mulama, Joyce, "End to HIV/AIDS a Tall Order in Face of Violence," of the Inter Press Service News Agency.  24 January 2007.