Patterns of domestic violence are very similar to the spread of HIV in women. In domestic violence, the woman is often isolated, has no control over the situation with her and her partner, she is often unaware, abused, and continues to stay in the relationship because she cannot see a way out. With HIV, the woman similarly has no say or control with condoms, she is either not aware or may have an idea that here partner is cheating, but again does not have a say in when he comes home or where he goes. She usually does not have the knowledge about how the virus is transmitted or that she is at risk of becoming infected because she is monogamous in her relationship. Often the woman is aware of who has infected her if she is positive, but will not turn the person in for all of the same reasons a physically battered woman resists turning in the father of her children, or the man who provides her economic stability.
In knowingly transmitting the virus to his partner, the male is declaring his control over his female partner. Statements are made to the effect of, "No one is going to want you now," conveying the message that the woman has now become "unclean."
In the same sense, social condition and religion has put the woman at a disadvantage. She is always made to feel that she must be monogamous, trust her partner, and taught to feel that someone else will be there to protect her, rather than instilling the belief that she is capable of taking care of herself. Further, as in domestic violence, there is much emotional trauma in getting a diagnosis or finding out that a partner has not only been unfaithful, but has also infected her with the disease. And many times women who are infected by their primary partners often suffer in silence, and it is not until they become sick that they come forward to receive help.
Some will say, "It is the woman's fault, she should know better; she should learn how to negotiate safer sex with her male partner." However, the media bombards us with musical lyrics and videos that portray women as merely sexual objects -- e.g., Sex Sells.
Dealing with this emerging assault against women and changing society's view of women rests within the power of women to create the vision of wholeness. We must come together and seize control of our lives and proclaim, "We are more than just a body. We are mind, body and spirit."
Further, we must work to improve the quality of life for HIV-positive women and their families and prevent the spread of the disease; raise the visibility of women living with HIV/AIDS and make a dent in the headlines, which currently report very little on the impact of HIV/AIDS on women, and their families.
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