As we commemorated World AIDS Day earlier this month, the importance of addressing the needs of women and girls as part of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy was clear. While we have made tremendous progress in learning how to prevent and treat HIV, including among women and girls, much work remains. Of the approximately 1.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States, about 290,000 are women and women account for 23 percent of new HIV infections.
This Administration has made combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic a priority. For women, that includes addressing gender-based violence and gender related health disparities. This violence can increase the risks women and girls face of acquiring HIV while decreasing their ability to seek prevention, treatment, and health services.
As directed by the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, federal agencies are collaborating and coordinating in an unprecedented manner to decrease new HIV/AIDS infections, improve HIV-related outcomes, and reduce HIV-related disparities. To continue this collaborative approach, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum in March 2012, establishing an interagency working group on the intersection of HIV/AIDS, violence against women and girls, and gender-related health disparities.
The working group includes representatives from the Departments of Justice, Interior, Health and Human Services, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, and the Office of Management and Budget. We are also tapping into the wealth of expertise and experience of members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS as well as our global Federal partners from the Department of State, the United States Agency for International Development, and the Gender Technical Working Group from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
The interagency group is charged with developing recommendations that focus on increasing public awareness of the intersection of HIV/AIDS, violence against women and girls, and gender related health disparities; sharing best practices and gender specific strategies aimed at addressing women’s risks and vulnerability to HIV/AIDS and violence; and prioritizing the needs of women of color who make up the majority of women living with and at risk of HIV infection in the United States.
Since June 2012, working group members have met regularly to pursue this mission of interagency coordination and the development of recommendations. We believe that it is critical to obtain input from as many stakeholders as possible regarding the issues the working group is addressing. So we want to hear from you.
From December 20, 2012 to January 20, 2013 you will be able to submit your individual stories, experiences, and comments to the working group by completing this online form. While we welcome any comments salient to the issue, we also ask that you consider the following questions:
1) How can we best address both violence and HIV among women and girls?
2) What are model programs and promising practices in addressing the intersection of HIV/AIDS and violence against women and girls?
3) What are barriers to reaching women and girls affected by HIV and violence?
4) What are the most effective strategies to reach women and girls who are living with violence and with HIV?
We would appreciate if you could keep you submission to under 500 words.
We are extremely grateful for your input. Your experiences and recommendations will inform our work, and we will be sure to keep you informed as we move forward.
Dr. Grant Colfax is Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy and Lynn Rosenthal is the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women.