Violence is common in the lives of women and girls living with, and at risk for, HIV/AIDS, and the Obama Administration is working to address these intersecting issues. In March 2012, the President issued a Presidential Memorandum creating the “Intersection of HIV/AIDS, Violence against Women and Girls, and Gender-Related Health Disparities Working Group”.
Sunday marks Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, and we are providing an update on the Working Group’s progress. As co-chairs, we are personally committed to this work, having first-hand community and clinical experience in seeing and treating the devastating effects violence has on the lives of women and their families.
The Presidential Memorandum directed select Federal agencies to improve data collection, research, and intervention strategies related to the intersection of these issues and to improve cooperation between agencies and with external partners.
During the past year, the Working Group looked at interagency coordination and the development of actionable, evidence-based recommendations. To assess current Federal efforts, members developed an inventory of programs for each agency that works in the intersection of HIV/AIDS, violence against women and girls, and health disparities.
Identifying and analyzing research was also a priority and led to two research review sessions with members of the Working Group, academic and public health experts, and other key stakeholders. In addition, the Working Group hosted two community webinars and had an online submission process to obtain individual stories, experiences, and public comments.
Both the webinars and the online submissions focused on answering questions that the Working Group was especially interested in understanding – specifically: To what extent is violence driving HIV infections and poor health outcomes among women living with HIV? What are barriers to reaching women and girls affected by HIV and violence? What further research is needed about how, where, and why violence and HIV intersect? What are model programs and promising practices for addressing the intersection of HIV/AIDS and violence against women and girls? How do we best treat HIV, address violence, and empower women who have experienced violence and other trauma? What are the best ways forward to prevent violence and HIV infection among women and girls?
After collecting information and data from a variety of additional sources, the Working Group has now concentrated its efforts on several well-defined focus areas. The Working Group will explore how, within existing resources, to best address the intersection of HIV/AIDS, violence against women and girls, and gender-related health disparities by focusing on specific areas, including:
As co-chairs of the Working Group, we are committed to achieving the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and to taking the steps necessary to prevent and address violence among women and girls. The recent enactment of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reinforces the Administration’s commitment to this issue, establishing a foundation for sustainable action.
We are proud of our progress to date—but we also know that we have more to do. We are grateful to our partners across the Federal government and those in the field who are working to protect women and girls at risk for violence and HIV. Together, we are committed to making a difference to women and girls, to their families, and to communities across the nation.
You can learn more about National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day here.
Lynn Rosenthal is the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women and Dr. Grant Colfax is Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy