President Obama Creates Gender Violence and HIV Initiative

The White House efforts could have the potential to lower new HIV infections among Black women.

Posted: 04/09/2012 03:41 PM EDT

In 2010, President Obama's newly announced National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) was clear: reduce new HIV infections in this country by 25 percent by 2015.

According to the strategy, the best way to get there was by addressing the domestic AIDS epidemic head-on by focusing more attention, money and research to the groups most affected, which include African-Americans, Latinos and men who have sex with men (MSM).

AIDS has been around for 30 years, and while many HIV/AIDS advocates have hailed President Obama's NHAS efforts as historic, some female HIV/AIDS advocates have pointed out that the strategy lacks any real language or approaches that address the special needs of women, especially when it comes to gender violence and HIV risk, an issue that greatly affects African-American women.

According to the American Bar Association's Committee on Domestic Violence, Black females experienced intimate partner violence at a rate 35 percent higher than that of white females, and about 22 times the rate of women of other races. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African-American women account for 57 percent of all women in the U.S. who are newly diagnosed with HIV.

To address these growing issues, President Obama announced on March 30 that he would establish a specific team of HIV/AIDS experts and advocates that will help create HIV prevention programs that specifically focus on gender-related health disparities and violence against women and girls.

According to a White House press release, establishing a “Working Group on the Intersection of HIV/AIDS, Violence Against Women and Girls, and Gender-related Health Disparities” will create goals to address several issues, especially health disparities among women of color, low-income and underserved communities. The Obama administration will oversee studies and data about gender violence and HIV risk, and information for health-care providers on how to better deal with patients who are victims of abuse and suffered trauma will be available. Most important, this group will be working to make new recommendations about how to address gender violence and HIV risk that will be added into the NHAS in the future.

This initiative has the potential to lower new HIV infections among women in the U.S.

Over the years, it has been well documented that domestic violence and dating violence increase a woman's risk of contracting HIV. A recent study conducted by the University of California-San Francisco’s Women’s HIV Program found that 55 percent of HIV positive women have experienced domestic violence in their past, and 60 percent were victims of sexual abuse.  

Last September, reported on a University of Pennsylvania report that found at least 12 percent of HIV infections among African-American teens were a result of partner violence. Of the 64 African-American girls ages 14–17 who participated in this study, 46 percent told the researchers they had not used condoms during sex with their partners, mostly because their boyfriend threatened them physically and/or sexually or abused them in some way. According to the researchers, this kind of abuse is called "condom coercion" and usually includes physical or sexual abuse, emotional manipulation and men taking off condoms during sex.

To learn more about the relationship between gender violence and HIV/AIDS, go here.

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