IWTC Women's GlobalNet #266

Activities and Initiatives of Women Worldwide By Vicki J. Semler and Anne S. Walker

December 2, 2004

HIV-AIDS AND VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: WORLD AIDS DAY DECEMBER 1, 2004:

World AIDS Day falls within the annual global campaign known as 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence (November 25-December 10). The 2004 theme of this global campaign (FOR THE HEALTH OF WOMEN, FOR THE HEALTH OF THE WORLD, NO MORE VIOLENCE) highlights the intersection of violence against women and the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Speaking at the opening ceremony for the International AIDS Conference held in Bangkok from 11-16 July, 2004, Kofi Annan, UN Secretary- General said: “Over the past few years we have seen a terrifying pattern emerge: all over the world, women are increasingly bearing the brunt of the epidemic.” Empowering women and girls must be a top priority if the fight against HIV and AIDS is to be won, he stressed, calling for girls’ education, job opportunities and land and inheritance rights for women and girls, as well as full access to practical means to protect themselves against the virus.

In an interview with the BBC, Mr Annan said that AIDS is as big a threat as terrorism, and called for the United States to lead the fight against the disease. “We hear a lot about terrorism, and we are worried about weapons of mass destruction because of their potential to kill thousands of people,” he said. “Here we have an epidemic that is killing millions.

What is the response?”

THE CONNECTION BETWEEN VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND HIV-AIDS

There is a growing body of research calling attention to the connection between violence against women and HIV/AIDS. Groups and initiatives focusing on this include the Global Coalition on Women and HIV/AIDS, the Amnesty International Stop Violence Against Women Campaign, the Global Campaign for Microbicides, and the 2004 UNAIDS World AIDS Campaign, as well as countless organizations at the grassroots level.

The World Health Organization (WHO) with UNAIDS and the Global Coalition on Women and AIDS, have highlighted two important issues for World AIDS Day 2004:

a) The need to ensure that women and girls have access to antiretroviral drugs and other AIDS treatments on an equitable basis. In this regard WHO and UNAIDS are urging governments to set national targets for women.

b) The need to address gender equality and in particular, violence against women, as an integral part of the response to the AIDS pandemic.

Information on all fact sheets, press releases and other WHO information can be found at:http://www.who.int <http://www.who.int/>

Domestic violence is a major challenge facing public health. Data soon to be released from the WHO Multi-Country Study on Women's Health and Domestic Violence show that between 29% to 69% of ever-partnered women report having been physically and/or sexually abused by an intimate male partner in their life. The health consequences of gender-based violence against women are far-reaching and include injuries, chronic pain syndromes, gynecological problems, unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, HIV, depression, and post traumatic stress disorder, among others. Violence against women increases women's and girls' vulnerability to HIV and can delay or impede their access to HIV testing and AIDS treatment.

WHO's Department of Gender, Women and Health (GWH) has developed three documents for women in their fight against HIV-AIDS:

1. A WHO/UNAIDS Policy Statement on Ensuring Equitable Access to Antiretroviral Therapy for Women.

2. An information bulletin on Intimate Partner Violence and HIV/AIDS

3. An information bulletin on Sexual Violence in conflict settings and the risk of HIV.

The two briefing notes form part of a series on Violence Against Women and HIV/AIDS: Critical Intersections that is currently being developed with support from the Global Coalition on Women and AIDS. These documents are available on the following website:

<http://www.who.int/gender/violence/sixteendays/en/>

If you would like further information about these materials please contact the Gender, Women and Health Department in WHO at email:

<genderandhealth@who.int>

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