The advancement of women’s health and their rights is one of the core principles of President Barack Obama’s Global Health Initiative. And so it is that the United States has rolled out a new initiative that will tackle one of the greatest threats to women’s health, HIV/AIDS, by attacking another scourge: gender-based violence.
Gender-based violence is ubiquitous: no country can claim to have eliminated it, and one in three women will be its victim in her lifetime. In some countries, as many as seven in ten women are affected.
Physical violence or the threat of physical violence and coercion are all associated with HIV transmission for women of all ages. In fact, numerous studies indicate that gender-based violence increases women’s and girls' risk of contracting HIV infection three fold. Gender-based violence limits women's ability to negotiate safe sexual practices, disclose their HIV status and access health services, thus helping to spread the HIV infection.
In mid-March, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer and U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, Ambassador Eric Goosby announced an initiative to provide $4.65 million in small grants to grassroots organizations to address gender-based violence issues. The new initiative will support programs that prevent and respond to gender-based violence, with links to HIV prevention, treatment and care. The money, which will be provided by the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, in grants of as much as $100,000, will go to organizations in some of the 80 countries that are working with the U.S. on trying to contain HIV/AIDS. U.S. embassies and consulates will oversee and support these grants.
Through the Gender-based Violence small grants program, grassroots organizations will receive support to prevent and respond to violence against women and help to address the structural drivers of both violence and HIV.
By combining the efforts to eliminate two of the major factors that threaten women’s health –- gender-based violence and HIV –- the United States and its partners will strengthen the response to each.