Women living with HIV experience a range of violations in their homes as well as in their communities because of their status, a recent study has revealed.
by Phyllis Mbanje
The research findings were shared in an oral presentation on improving access to integrated sexual reproductive health rights (SRHR) at the International Conference on Aids and STIs in Africa (Icasa), which Zimbabwe is hosting.
Violations faced by women living with HIV range from misinformation regarding SRHR to mistreatment and abuse during the process of seeking reproductive health services from health facilities.
As a result, the International Community of Women Living with HIV Eastern Africa has launched a campaign dubbed “A beat to end sexual reproductive health rights violations, HIV criminalisation and widening of the contraception choices and options for women living with HIV”.
In some parts of Africa, HIV-positive women are forced to undergo sterilisation without their consent or coerced by health personnel to give up their birthing rights.
“We are seeing increased violence against young women. Our call is to address the root cause — gender inequality,” UNAids executive director, Michel Sidibe said.
In some regions, women, who have experienced physical or sexual partner violence are 1,5 times more likely to acquire HIV compared to women who have not.
UNAids said ending the Aids epidemic would depend on a social justice agenda that demands equality in education, employment, political representation and access to justice and health, free from violence.
“Far too long and still today, discrimination against women allows for compromised access to education and sexual reproductive health information,” Mutaleni Nadimi, from the Aids and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa, said.
She said the scourges of early forced marriage, female genital mutilation and gender-based violence would be repressed if foundations of a safe and secure world were established.
The anti-gender based violence advocacy group in Zimbabwe, Aids and Arts Foundation, recently partnered with the Raising Voices Network of Uganda in a nationwide gender-based violence information centre roll-out.
The launch was held at Caledonia Clinic ahead of the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence campaign.
Under the initiative, community leaders will use their influence and voice in addressing gender-based violence in line with the regional stance.
The 16 days of activism against gender-based violence are observed from November 25 to December 10 annually.