The National Women’s Health Network is proud to stand with the Positive Women’s Network USA (PWN-USA) on its second annual National Day of Action to End Violence Against Women Living with HIV. As an issue that greatly affects women’s health as well as reproductive rights, we are deeply committed to the cause and dedicated to breaking the chains to end the culture of violence. Today, at the Network, we are playing our part by educating and raising awareness to help women living with HIV live safe and healthy lives.
So what is this Day of Action all about? Well, besides having to live with a devastating disease, women living with HIV (WLHIV) disproportionally experience sexual abuse, physical abuse, PTSD, and other physical and mental health problems as a result of the stigma that comes with being HIV positive and the intersection between HIV positivity and societal misogyny.
Violence against women living with HIV is a complex, multi-layered problem that manifests on all levels: individually, structurally, and institutionally. We can see this in HIV criminalization laws as well as harsh restrictions on sexual and reproductive rights that prevent WLHIV from accessing essential healthcare and health services that they have a right to.
All of these problems are even worse for trans and gender-nonconforming women as well as LGBTQ women, poor women, sex workers, and women of color. The problem is so bad that women living with HIV are statistically much more likely to die from the effects of living with HIV than from the disease itself.
Today’s Day of Action is of utmost importance because violence against women living with HIV is not an isolated problem, but one that is part of a larger context where violence against women is normalized and tolerated.
Together, we must advocate for change in our federal and state governments to do more to protect and help WLHIV live the safe and healthy lives that they deserve. Some ideas include: repealing laws that criminalize HIV exposure and nondisclosure; creating government programs and working groups to specialize in HIV care and prevention issues for women; passing legislation to assure that WLHIV can have safe and high-quality access to health services; and working to prevent violence and providing treatment for violence and associated trauma and mental health issues. We also must work to educate the public on the issues and let the voices of WLHIV be heard through their active involvement in the development and implementation of these ideas.
There are over 300,000 women in the US living with HIV and they need our help. Stand with us and with PWN-USA as we call on lawmakers and healthcare providers to do more to end the violence and mistreatment for those who most need our protection.