International Donors Must Connect Fight Against HIV/AIDS to Ending Violence Against Women, Report Says
Governments and international donors, including the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, need to address violence against women in the context of HIV/AIDS programs, according to a report conducted by Women Won't Wait and released on Tuesday, Reuters South Africa reports. According to the group, violence against women and girls, such as rape, was a cause and a consequence of the rapid spread of HIV among females worldwide. Many women become HIV-positive when they are raped, many by their husbands, and then are blamed and face more violence, the group said (Nichols, Reuters South Africa, 3/6). The report, titled "Show Us the Money: Is Violence Against Women on the HIV/AIDS Donor Agenda," evaluated policies, programs and funding patterns of international agencies currently responding to the global AIDS epidemic, including PEPFAR, the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, World Bank, United Kingdom's Department for International Development and UNAIDS (Women Won't Wait release, 3/6). The report found that donors provide "scant resources" to programs that combat violence against women and the resources are largely from HIV/AIDS programs. The report also said that the "ABC" HIV prevention model -- which stands for abstinence, be faithful and use condoms -- emphasized by PEPFAR failed to recognize that in some countries, faithfully married women are the most at risk of infection. Mary Robinson, president of the group Realizing Rights and former president of Ireland, said, "It is vital that the policies, programs and funding streams of national governments and international agencies transparently address the intersection of HIV and AIDS and violence against women." Susana Fried, the author of the report, wrote that the "ultimate failure [of governments and donors] to address the linkages of violence against women and girls and HIV/AIDS means that they also fail to articulate and execute an agenda that gives priority to securing the human rights of women" (Reuters South Africa, 3/6). According to a UNAIDS report, titled "AIDS Epidemic Update: December 2006," the number of HIV-positive women worldwide has reached 17.7 million, an increase of more than one million over the past two years. In sub-Saharan Africa, women account for 59% of people living with HIV/AIDS (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/21/06).
"Promoting linkages" between HIV/AIDS services for women and reproductive health and family planning programs is a challenging task and one that contains high "stake[s]" for U.S. global AIDS policy, Janet Fleischman, senior associate of the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Task Force on HIV/AIDS, writes in a Boston Globe opinion piece. According to Fleischman, creating links between these programs would be an effective strategy to increase the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of HIV/AIDS programs, expand entry points for women to access to HIV/AIDS services, build greater sustainability and address the shortage of health care workers. "With women increasingly bearing the brunt of the epidemic, especially in Africa, focusing on new opportunities to reach them is essential for the success of prevention, care and treatment," she writes (Fleischman, Boston Globe, 3/7).
The report is available online.