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Gender-based violence and HIV-both must be stopped

What is Gender-Based Violence? Gender-based violence can begin in a seemingly innocent way.  It can be small pinches, or slaps, or even negative statements; all of which can be dangerous to women’s health. 

According to the WHO,” violence is an important cause of morbidity from multiple mental, physical, sexual and reproductive health outcomes, and it is also linked with known risk factors for poor health, such as alcohol and drug use, smoking and unsafe sex.”

Violence during pregnancy has also been associated with an increased risk of miscarriage, premature delivery and low birth weight.
Why is GBV a Societal Emergency?

Many health organizations have termed gender-based violence a public health emergency with long-term health consequences that impact not only the individual, but also society as well.  Violence against women has been described as “perhaps the most shameful human rights violation, and the most pervasive. 

Again, WHO states, ” Addressing violence against women is central to a society’s ability to achieve several of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). “ Specifically, it can cause a country to forfeit on its ability to achieve MDG 3 (women's empowerment and gender equality) as well as MDGs 4 (reducing child mortality) MDG 5 (improve maternal health) and MDG 6 (combat HIV, Malaria, and other diseases). 

It can also be a peace and security issue. Violence against any member of society causes distrust and disruption in that society. Yet, the WHO states that worldwide, despite these findings “investment in prevention and in services for survivors remains woefully inadequate.”

Moreover, in 2011, research on violence against women – especially male partner violence found that this health issue had increased.  In fact, since 2005, the report is that when the first results of the World Health Organization (WHO) Multi-Country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence were launched, “the number of intimate partner violence prevalence studies increased fourfold, from 80 to more than 300 in 2008.

“ This could be because more data has become available from various parts of the world, such as the Middle East and West Africa.
How Does it Relate to HIV/AIDS?

These findings continue to show that women suffer from violence often at the hand of those who say that they love them or are married to them.  Unfortunately, in too many cases, this abuse can lead to morbidity and AIDS because women are physically more susceptible to HIV infection than men, and gender-based violence makes them even more vulnerable.

Physically the forced rape of a woman can tear her body and in some cases, the raper, can be infected with HIV/AIDS. What Can Be Done to Prevent this Problem? Since violence does not hurt only the person who has experienced it. It hurts the whole community; here are some ways to help end violence against women.


•    Report it to the authorities, the police or an agency that may help


•    Support a friend or family member who may be in an abusive relationship. Learn more about where and how to help by connecting to an organization to get training.


•    Volunteer at a local domestic violence shelter or other organization that helps survivors or works to prevent violence.


•    Raise children to respect others. Teach children to treat others as they would like to be treated.


•    Lead by example. Work to create a culture that rejects violence as a way to deal with problems. Speak up against messages that say violence or mistreating women is okay.


•    Become an activist. Participate in an anti-violence event like a local Take Back the Night march. Tell your congressional representatives that you want them to support domestic violence services and violence prevention programs.


•    Volunteer in youth programs. Become a mentor. Get involved in programs that teach young people to solve problems without violence. Get involved with Choose Respect   or other programs that teach teens about healthy relationships.


•    Ask about anti-violence policies and programs at work and school. At work, ask about policies that deal with sexual harassment, for example. On campus, ask about services to escort students to dorms safely at night and other safety measures.


Tanzanian Program
In Tanzania, there are many programs and groups to support those living with HIV and those who want to protect women from gender-based violence.  One award winning organization is the Kivulini Women’s Rights Organization in Mwanza. 

Its mission is: to empower women and girls to claim their universal human rights to dignity, equality, justice and safety through local activism, youth engagement, strengthening capacity and advocacy. 

It is an organization that helps to combat domestic violence, gender-based violence.  It helps draw attention to the health of women and girls.  The organization matters because the health of women and girls matters.

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Author: Dr Robin Mjasiri

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