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UNAIDS urges world to unite to end gender-based violence against women and girls

By United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS

UNAIDS urges world to unite to end gender-based violence against women and girls

On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, UNAIDS is calling on the world to unite to end gender-based violence in all its forms and to challenge the gender inequities driving the HIV pandemic.

“Violence against women and girls is our individual and collective shame—a gross violation of human rights happening on an epic scale,” said UNAIDS Executive Director, Winnie Byanyima. “This pandemic of violence continues to drive thousands of new HIV infections every week and is making the end of AIDS much harder to achieve. It is a systemic issue that must be addressed at every level of society.”

Last year, 4900 young women or adolescent girls aged 15—24 became infected with HIV every week. One in three women and adolescent girls around the world has suffered physical and/or sexual violence from their husbands, male partners, or strangers. This violence often takes place in their homes and neighborhoods, where they should be safest. And this staggering statistic doesn’t include the millions more women and girls facing other forms of gender-based violence and harmful practices such as child and forced marriage, female genital mutilation, and sexual violence.

In countries with high HIV prevalence, intimate partner violence can increase the chances of women acquiring HIV by up to 50%. Violence or the fear of it blocks women’s access to services and their ability to negotiate condom use with perpetrators, disclose their HIV status, or stay on HIV treatment. Keeping girls in school is one way to decrease their exposure to violence and reduces their risk of HIV infection by 50%.

The World Health Organization has named violence against women a global health problem of epidemic proportions. Yet, decades after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted on 10th December 1948 and The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) instituted in 1979—the world is still talking about eliminating violence against women.

It marks the beginning of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence whose theme this year is UNITE! Activism to end violence against women and girls.