September 6, 2013
New Orleans, La. -- Today, the Interagency Federal Working Group on the Intersection of HIV/AIDS, Violence against Women and Girls, and Gender-Related Health Disparities released an important set of federal policy recommendations to address the health and rights of women living with HIV, especially women affected by violence.
The National HIV/AIDS Strategy, the first US domestic HIV strategy, failed to articulate or address intersections between violence, trauma and HIV and researchers and policymakers initially demonstrated skepticism that such a link existed. However, evidence clearly shows that women living with HIV in the US are disproportionately impacted by childhood sexual abuse, intimate partner violence, and other forms of abuse, before and after diagnosis. Women living with HIV may face challenges leaving abusive relationships for a variety of reasons. In addition, data demonstrates that women living with HIV are likely to suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and its consequent negative health outcomes.
Following outcry from advocates and ongoing pressure from women-focused groups, including the 30 for 30 Campaign, President Obama formed this Working Group to prioritize a response to intimate partner violence (IPV) in the context of HIV "because of its high overall prevalence among women and girls, especially women living with HIV." Violence and trauma negatively impact physical and mental health, complicate access to and retention in medical care, and have a detrimental effect on overall quality of life.
"Over half of women living with HIV in the United States are not in regular medical care, and less than a quarter have suppressed viral loads, one indicator of health status. A failure to systemically address the downstream effects of lifetime trauma may be the missing ingredient here," says Gina Brown, of Positive Women's Network - USA, a New Orleans resident and survivor of violence.
The report proposes key next steps, including recommendations to develop, pilot and evaluate programs that provide trauma-informed care as part of HIV care and services for women. For a full list of recommendations, check out the Working Group's report here.
This Sunday, September 8th, the report will be presented by Working Group leaders at the US Conference on AIDS in New Orleans.
"Although the National HIV/AIDS Strategy missed this critical intersection for women, this report is an powerful step forward in the right direction, says Naina Khanna, Executive Director of PWN-USA and a member of the President's Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.
Positive Women's Network - USA commends and congratulates all members of the Federal Interagency Working Group, especially co-chairs Lynn Rosenthal and Grant Colfax, James Albino, of the Office of National AIDS Policy, and all federal agencies involved in the process to create this groundbreaking report.