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October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Find out how the National HIV/AIDS Strategy works to address violence against women and girls.

As the President wrote in his proclamation earlier this month,

“During National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we shine a light on this violation of the basic human right to be free from violence and abuse, pledge to ensure every victim of domestic violence knows they are not alone, and foster supportive communities that help survivors seek justice and enjoy full and healthy lives.”

The Office of National AIDS Policy takes this charge seriously and continues to oversee the many recommendations that were made to address the intersecting epidemics of HIV and violence against women in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.

Four years ago, President Obama brought attention to the intersection of HIV, violence against women, and gender-related health disparities by signing a Presidential Memorandum, which established a Federal interagency working group to address the issue.  In September 2013, the Interagency Federal Working Group Report was released, identifying five core objectives for action.  For each objective, the report outlined concrete, non-exhaustive, recommended actions for specific Federal agencies.  Last year, these efforts were integrated into the Federal Interagency Working Group on HIV, included in the updated Strategy, and highlighted in the Federal Action Plan along with new commitments for 2016-2020.  Since then, a number of steps have been taken to address women's and girls' vulnerability to HIV infection and violence.  Federal agencies began almost a dozen new activities to continue implementing the recommendations of the working group that were incorporated in the updated Strategy in 2015.  A few of those actions are listed below and highlight commitments that are being fulfilled through Federal coordination in 2016 alone:

  • As a result of funding from the Administration on Children and Families (ACF), a training curriculum has been developed for clinicians on the intersection of gender-based violence, health, and HIV.  This new curriculum will be piloted during an in-person session and highlighted in a webinar on HIV and intimate partner violence (IPV) on World AIDS Day, December 1, 2016.  
  • In addition, ACF is creating a two-part guide for providers working with women living with HIV to improve their ability to respond to multiple forms of trauma, minimize re-traumatization, and support resilience and well-being..
  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) conducted a webinar in January, an educational session in April, and is providing technical assistance for numerous initiatives to increase awareness of its Trauma-Informed Care Guidance for use in HIV prevention and care programs across the Federal government.  
  • Five SAMHSA grantees participating in the Violence Intervention to Enhance Lives (VITEL) project have educated nearly 400 staff and clients on IPV and local IPV services.  More than 500 clients have been screened for IPV and referred to trauma-informed care treatment as needed.

In addition, community partners are taking action to raise awareness about the intersection of HIV and violence against women.  For example, many will observe the National Day of Action to End Violence Against Women with HIV this Sunday. 

This month, as we continue our efforts to implement the Strategy and achieve an AIDS-free generation, let us not lose sight of the countless individuals who simultaneously face violence and HIV.  In the words of the President, “We all have a role to play in building a bright and safe future for each other and for future generations. This month, we recommit to standing with survivors of domestic violence and to doing our utmost to extend hope and healing to all who need it.”

Caira Woods, PhD is Senior Policy Advisor to the Office of National AIDS Policy.