There is increasing evidence that there is a link between gender-based violence and HIV transmission.
Women who have experienced intimate partner violence have double the risk of contracting HIV and sexually transmitted infections. (World Health Organization, 2011 Why address gender-based violence in HIV response & what are effective strategies?)
This finding is relevant for sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender populations and injecting drug users since they often experience violence. For example based on two studies conducted in the USA, 68 percent of young men who have sex with men experience threats or violence from either family or partners and 25 percent of men who have sex with men experience threats or violence from both family and partners. Prevalence of rape among female sex workers is also very common with surveys showing 32 percent in Mombasa, Kenya and 31 percent in Karnataka, India (WHO, 2011).
Most governments, including those in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, don’t always take into account the link between violence and the risk of HIV when developing their national strategies plans on HIV and AIDS.
Recently, I attended a global meeting that looked at this very issue, organized by the United Nations and partners working in the area of HIV and AIDS (Athena Network, Sonke Gender Justice, and MenEngage Alliance). Present from this region were representatives from Kazakhstan, Moldova, Russia and Tajikistan.
Together, we looked at how national strategies and plans on HIV and AIDS include issues of gender-based violence, and whether they engage men and boys to advance gender equality. National partners agreed on priority actions and developed plans with time lines and commitments to address these issues.
Investing in national HIV strategies that address gender inequality and violence will position projects within an overall unifying strategy. So far, small-scale projects have been fragmented with limited impact.
- Gender based violence is a widespread public health and human rights problem.
- Gender based violence is rooted in gender inequality in society linked to traditional gender norms perpetuating violence against women.
- Countries still need to do a lot of work to ensure effective integration of gender-based violence and engaging men and boys in their national strategic plans.
Consulting on this issue is a starting point for engaging men and boys in reducing gender based violence in the region and systematically integrating this issue in strategies and plans on HIV and AIDS.
The main reason for engaging men and boys in preventing gender based violence is that they are usually the main source of violence in such situations. Furthermore, engaging men and boys as agents for change has proven to be effective. When men and boys share information with each other, it can break down communication barriers and stereotypes.