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International News

Violence Against Women Fuels HIV Growth, Sparks New Caribbean Group Into Action

June 10, 2009

Sexual violence is driving the increase of HIV infection among girls and women in the Caribbean, say activists who have started an organization to fight the problem.

"Violence, real or threatened, dramatically increases female vulnerability to HIV by making it difficult or impossible to negotiate safer sex and condom use," says a statement from the Caribbean Coalition on Women, Girls and AIDS (CCWA). "It also affects women's expectations in relationships and can stop women from accessing HIV prevention, care, and treatment services."

CCWA cites a study noting that the first sexual experience was forced for nearly 50 percent of adolescent girls in the Caribbean. Among women ages 15 to 24, some 15 percent say they were sexually active before their 15th birthday, according to official statistics.

Deep-rooted stereotypes are at the base of the gender inequity contributing to the HIV crisis, says Roberta Clarke, regional program director in the Caribbean office of the UN Development Fund for Women. Women in Caribbean cultures are perceived as of less worth than men and are targets of male predatory behavior. At the same time, men are raised to believe that masculinity is tied to risk-taking, power and control, precocious sexual activity, and numerous sexual partners, she said.

CCWA has enlisted the support of political leaders throughout the region, including Dr. Jean Ramjohn Richards, the wife of Trinidad and Tobago's President George Maxwell Richards; Governor General of St. Lucia Dame Pearlette Louisy; and former Barbados Foreign Minister Dame Billie Miller.

CCWA's goals are in line with those of a similar international effort launched last year by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon. The seven-year "UNite to End Violence Against Women" campaign affirms that "violence against women is never acceptable, never excusable, never tolerable."

Back to other news for June 2009

Adapted from:
Caribbean Today (Miami)
04.09.2009; Peter Richards

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
What Did You Expect While You Were Expecting?
HIV/AIDS Resource Center for Women