Today we are proud to announce the release of the report by the President’s Working Group on the Intersection of HIV/AIDS, Violence against Women and Girls, and Gender-Related Health Disparities. We have had the honor of serving as co-chairs of the interagency Federal Working Group since March 2012, when President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum to address two overlapping challenges to the health and wellbeing of communities across the United States: the effects of HIV/AIDS, and the alarming rate at which women and girls experience violence.
More than 1 in 3 women in the United States has experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in her lifetime; of these women, 69% report experiencing intimate partner violence at age 25 or younger, and 22% experience IPV for the first time as girls between the ages of 11 and 17 years. Furthermore, approximately 280,000 women in the United States were living with HIV in 2009, with an estimated 15% unaware of their status. Women account for 20% of new HIV infections in the United States, with over three-quarters of these new infections occurring among black and Latina women.
By themselves, these statistics represent a compelling call to action, but the particular prevalence of intimate partner violence among women living with HIV further reinforces the need to address the intersection of HIV/AIDS and violence against women and girls: 56% of women living with HIV, compared to the national prevalence of 36%, have experienced violence by an intimate partner.
Given these data, the Working Group established by the Presidential Memorandum was tasked with developing actions for evidence-based, culturally relevant steps for Federal agencies to address the barriers to care and prevention for both HIV and violence. The culminating report charts a path forward to improve collaboration among agencies by leveraging federal resources in support of the health and wellbeing of women and girls, particularly those living with or at high-risk for HIV/AIDS and violence. The report’s action steps include: a focus on research and data collection to evaluate existing programs; ideas to develop new strategies for intervention; and expanded efforts to empower women and girls, as well as engage men and boys, in the prevention of violence and HIV risk.
The release of this report comes at a particularly exciting time for women’s health, with open enrollment into the health insurance marketplace beginning October 1 under the Affordable Care Act. Built into the report are action steps to improve screening rates for both intimate partner violence and HIV for women; already as a result of the Affordable Care Act, new health plans provide coverage with no cost sharing for these services. Each of the report’s action steps will help meet the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and are synergistic with the Administration’s additional efforts to promote health and wellness among women and girls.
On Sunday, September 8, we will present the report at the United States Conference on HIV/AIDS, in New Orleans. We look forward to sharing the report with stakeholders, because a coordinated response to this complex issue is necessary to maximize impact. While the report identifies specific federal actions, its long-term success will depend on collaboration with partners in the private sector, faith communities, academia, and advocacy organizations. Our collective efforts will help us reach the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and reduce violence against women and girls.
Dr. Grant Colfax is the Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy. Lynn Rosenthal is the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women.