Gender, women and health

Violence against women and HIV/AIDS

Background

Violence against women interacts with the HIV epidemic in many ways, all to the detriment of women:

  • Women can be infected with the HIV virus through forced sex, The chances of a woman contracting HIV via a forced sexual encounter are probably increased since forced sex often involves trauma and tissue tearing which can provide an open door to the virus.
  • Sexual abuse in childhood (a form of VAW) is associated with risk-taking behavior later in life, increasing an individual’s lifetime risk of contracting HIV.
  • Violence and fear of violence can prevent a woman, even one in a consensual union, from insisting on condom use or refusing unwanted sex. Since condom use and abstinence are currently the only dependable and widely available means of avoiding HIV infection, this leaves women with no means of protecting themselves.
  • Fear of violence, stigma, and abandonment can dissuade women from learning their HIV-infection status – or, if they do learn it, from sharing it with their partners.
  • Since violence can affect women’s willingness to be tested, it can also have a detrimental effect on HIV control, treatment, and prevention of mother to child transmission programmes.
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