What is the link between HIV and gender-based violence?

28 November 2014

Men in El Salvador standing up for equal right between women and men.

"Domestic work is also work and it’s women and men’s work" - Men in El Salvador challenging sociocultural norms.

During these 16 days of activism against gender-based violence CAFOD is sharing voices of survivors and those of women and men working to prevent violence.

It seems appropriate as we approach World AIDS Day on 1 December to highlight the links between HIV and gender-based violence. These are often rooted in the power imbalance between women and men and the societal acceptance of harmful attitudes and behaviour.

Hindering protection

Violence and the threat of violence hinders the ability of individuals to protect themselves from infection. When sex is violent or forced, women are put at high risk of HIV infection. Harmful traditions such as men marrying virgins in the hope of being ‘cured’ of HIV and practices such as female genital mutilation could lead to an increased risk of HIV infection for those women and girls. In a study in Central America, 28 per cent of people living with HIV in the region say they have experienced some form of violence in the last 12 months.

So how can we address some of these issues?  By giving communities accurate information about HIV, encouraging relationships that empower women and men to make healthy decisions and by addressing some of the social norms that discriminate against women and girls.

Education programmes in El Salvador

A good example of this approach is the work being carried out by CAFOD’s partner CONTRASIDA in El Salvador. They encourage both women and men to reflect on the roles they play, by educating communities about gender-based violence and HIV through radio programmes and targeted workshops with girls and boys.

They also run masculinities workshops with men, exploring some of the male stereotypes that lead to unhealthy behaviour and discussing the benefits for women and men of creating more equal relationships.

Sister-Doctor Mary Annel, CONTRASIDA’s founder, summarizes their efforts, “El Salvador‘s young people need to examine their culture’s gender-based violence.   CONTRASIDA helps promote peace by focusing on violence prevention and mutual respect”.   

Download our HIV and Gender Factsheet

Please pray for all boys and youths to have inspiring role models of positive masculinity so that they grow up with a balanced sense of worth and with respect for women.

Health clinic World Gift

If you'd like to help us continue to work with people living with HIV why not do some group fundraising towards a community health clinic? The clinic costs £4000 to run and can provide medicines and nutritional supplements, electricity and equipment as well as petrol for the clinic ambulance. A health clinic is a vital resource for people living in rural villages and can save many lives!      

Take a look at the full online World Gifts catalogue                 

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