A Comprehensive Response to HIV and Gender-based Violence
Jimena Valades, Program Officer - Safe Abortion
Violence against women is a problem that many women in our region face, and sometimes they don't even know it. When a young woman receives sexual and reproductive health services, it’s possible for a conversation about gender-based violence to occur between her and the doctor. In a setting that is private and confidential, a doctor who shows empathy with a woman who she or he believes may have experienced violence is more likely to be made aware of incidents of violence that have occurred than one who does not display empathy. The detection of gender-based violence must be integrated into health service provision. Doing so is a part of making it possible for women who have experienced violence to access specialized services that can help them escape and heal from situations of violence.
An approach to gender-based violence by health care providers requires that the providers have the tools and skills necessary to promote a safe and respectful environment where women can reveal information about their lives that is difficult and traumatic to talk about. Providers must overcome their own fears and reservations about learning about the private lives of women or handling situations that are related to incidents of violence. Successfully responding to gender-based violence heavily relies on the health care provider’s ability to adequately ask questions about the woman’s well being and to link victims of violence to relevant services that match the needs of each case and ensure the woman’s safety. That is why training health care providers on methods for integrating gender-based violence screening into health services is a critical element for tackling the issue.
IPPF/WHR and our Member Associations have with highly qualified staff who are committed to giving health care providers the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to provide screening services, counseling and referrals for women experiencing violence. We believe health care providers can play a key role in the early detection and prevention of gender-based violence and can reduce the harm inflicted on women living in situations of violence.
During the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign, many organizations are joining forces to create greater awareness of this issue, which affects up to 70% of women worldwide. Today, on World AIDS Day, it is important to highlight the relationship between HIV and gender-based violence. Women who experience violence have a greater risk of contracting HIV and women living with HIV are twice as likely to be victims of violence. The complex relationship between HIV and gender-based violence makes it imperative to implement a comprehensive response in the health sector. The integration of gender-based violence screening and prevention into sexual and reproductive health services makes it possible for women to access people and services that are responsive to the full scope of their needs.