September 22, 2010
There are many issues that HIV-positive women have been talking to each other and their allies about for years. We are often talking about many of these issues before the medical professionals ever have any clue about them. First background, this week I am at the U.S. Conference on AIDS in Orlando, Florida. There are so many possible sessions to attend -- one two hour block had 27 different options. I find that I cannot possibly attend all the sessions on topics that I am interested in. But, HIV+ women and their susceptibility to partner violence is something that I have understood on a personal basis for a long time. I was in an abusive relationship in high school ... that seems like another person, in another time. I got my s#*t together, went to college, fell in love with someone who, unknowingly, infected me with HIV. Life is cruel that way sometimes. Believe me, my story is not unique. I honestly do not know the exact number, but a large percentage of women (including trans women) living with HIV have experienced emotional or physical violence at some point in their (our) past. Sometimes the transmission of the virus and violence occur concurrently, and other times (as in my case) they do not. Physical violence worsens a low self-esteem, which in my case, is why I didn't think to protect myself.
So, my point is this ... I came to this conference to objectively see how often violence was brought up, as it relates to women and HIV. With the Rhianna video, there is certainly a lot of discussion about whether it creates conversation, or sensationalizes abuse and perpetuates myths. These issues are not only talked about within the HIV community but in this case, there were sessions on exactly that topic! I was pleased to see specific sessions focused on addressing violence for the women in the African-American community, since we know there are documented intersections between violence, racial injustice, and HIV. As a Caucasian woman living with HIV who has experienced violence, one of my hopes is that violence against women can, in the future, be addressed as an issue affecting women from all racial and ethnic communities. In my work I see that women of all colors suffer from the effects of violence. In this day and age, it is truly great when women come together and unite. We are SO powerful as a group and we will only succeed in stopping the spread of HIV by collectively taking our power back as women. Through history, women have been the catalyst for change. WE are exactly the force needed to stop both violence and HIV. Who's with me?
Return to USCA 2010 Reports.