With 3 out of 4 women with HIV reporting a history of violence or abuse—which all too often stands in the way of successful treatment HIV treatment—now is the time for policy and programmatic solutions, according to Positive Women's Network-USA.
The public is invited to join the over 60 organizations worldwide that have signed on as endorsers or partners in the second annual National Day of Action to End Violence Against Women Living with HIV, October 23, 2015. By signing on and participating in actions and events online and/or in person throughout the nation, you can help raise the awareness that can bring real solutions to this culture of violence.
Last year over a dozen organizations supported the first-ever Day of Action. This year, women with HIV and allies are poised to make an even bigger impact. In-person events are planned in about 15 cities nationwide, many featuring a screening of Empowered, a new film from the Kaiser Family Foundation featuring five members of PWN-USA who have survived intimate partner violence, scheduled for release next week. Online, the National Network to End Domestic Violence, The Well Project and SisterLove Inc will serve as panelists on a Twitter Chat; PWN-USA will launch a "flashblog" featuring blog posts on the topic of violence against WLHIV written by women with intimate experience of such violence; and organizations and individuals are joining a Thunderclap of support that will hit social media networks at 11 AM. Can we count your organization in to spread the word and support solutions?
"Last year's events really helped to highlight policy and programmatic opportunities to address violence against women with HIV, as well as the cumulative effects of lifetime trauma," says PWN-USA's Executive Director, Naina Khanna. "From the White House to local Ryan White clinics and community-based organizations, we are seeing an emerging commitment to address this issue. That is all the more reason to keep the pressure on until we see real action."
PWN-USA called for the first National Day of Action to End Violence Against WLHIV on October 23 of last year, during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, to raise awareness in the public to this epidemic of violence—and to put forward solutions. Repealing laws that criminalize HIV status, screening for abuse and trauma in health care settings, providing trauma-informed care to help women heal both body and mind, and eliminating harmful stigma that normalizes violence toward WLHIV would help women currently facing abuse and promote a culture of healing.
Over 55% of women living with HIV ( WLHIV ) have experienced violence or abuse at the hands of an intimate partner. 30% of WLHIV suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder ( PTSD )—five times the rate among the general female population. In fact, WLHIV are today more likely to die from the effects of lifetime abuse than from HIV disease. Data shows that WLHIV dealing with trauma and abuse are less likely to receive and adhere to treatment. The stigma that persists around HIV—in part due to laws that criminalize actions by HIV-positive people that present no risk of transmission, such as spitting—can make women less likely to get tested, seek treatment and disclose their status to others. That same stigma places them at higher risk of landing in and staying in abusive and coercive relationships.
Teresa Sullivan, a member of the PWN-USA Board of Directors, describes spending 5 months in jail and another 3 years on probation when her partner of 7 years lied to police to punish her for ending the abusive relationship. Nancy Asha Molock's verbally abusive partner threatened to email all of her friends and disclose her HIV status to them—something she had not yet done—in an attempt to coerce her into staying in the unhealthy relationship. While stories like these are inexcusable, Sullivan and Molock are lucky compared with some. Other women, like Cicely Bolden and Elisha Henson, both of Texas, have been brutally murdered following disclosure of their HIV status.
"Not addressing the effects of violence and trauma, and failing to provide effective trauma-informed care, can have a trickle down effect that puts a whole new generation of young women and girls at risk for acquiring HIV," says Molock. "Violence against women and women living with HIV should be a public outcry and health concern of top priority. Violence and HIV are deeply intertwined, and if we want to see the end of AIDS in the United States or globally, we must work to free women from the trauma and violence that can lead to acquiring HIV."
The statistics are alarming. The stories are heartbreaking. Help end the epidemic of violence against women with HIV, and be part of the solution. Click here to sign on as a partner or endorser today!
Positive Women's Network-USA ( PWN-USA ) is a national membership body of women living with HIV and our allies that exists to strengthen the strategic power of all women living with HIV in the United States. We combat stigma, analyze policy, and promote HIV-positive women's visible leadership. In addition to national advocacy, we support leadership at a local and state level. PWN-USA chapters are located in six regions and three metropolitan areas: Philadelphia, PA; San Diego, CA; San Francisco Bay Area, CA; Colorado; South Carolina; Michigan; Ohio; Georgia; and Louisiana. PWN-USA believes in self-determination, sisterhood and solidarity. Every day we inspire, inform and mobilize women living with HIV to advocate for changes that improve our lives and uphold our rights. Join our e-mail/mailing list by contacting email@example.com or calling 347-553-5174. Follow us on facebook at tinyurl.com/uspwnfacebook and twitter @uspwn .