Break the Culture of Violence Against Women with HIV and All Women

First-Ever National Day of Action to End Violence Against Women with HIV Observed on October 23 With Rallies, Ruckus-Raisings and Social Media Actions Across the US


Contact: Olivia Ford, / 347.553.5174

October 23, 2014 – Violence against women with HIV is part of a larger context and culture in which violence against women, especially women of color, has been normalized and accepted. On October 23, we’re saying ENOUGH!

doa_squarememe_arialToday, during Intimate Partner Violence Awareness Month, Positive Women’s Network – USA (PWN-USA), the premier voice of women leaders with HIV in the US, joins with more than a dozen endorsing organizations to raise our voices in support of women with HIV of all gender identities and sexual expressions who face violence, and the trauma that violence leaves in its wake.

Did you know:

  • There’s a crater in the HIV care continuum for US women between linkage to care (70%) and staying in care (41%). Evidence is growing that healing the effects of trauma is key to filling that gap. Intimate partner violence (IPV) screening, and a trauma-informed approach, must become the norm for women with HIV in clinical and community-based settings to break the cycle of violence, trauma and HIV.
  • For women living with HIV, violence is more deadly than the virus. A large study of women with HIV showed that those reporting recent abuse were 42% more likely to die than those who did not report recent trauma.
  • Women with HIV who have experienced IPV could fill an entire city. There are roughly 300,000 women living with HIV in the US. More than half have experienced IPV. That’s more than the population of Green Bay, Wisconsin; Berkeley, California; Peoria, Illinois; or Columbia, South Carolina.
  • An analysis of studies in transgender and cisgender women showed that those reporting ongoing trauma had 4 times greater odds of having their HIV treatment stop working.
  • 1/3 of US WLHIV have diagnosable post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is what veterans live with when returning from war.
  • 3 in every 4 US women living with HIV report a history of gender-based violence (compared with 1 in 4 women in the general population). Failure to address trauma is selling MOST women living with HIV short on their care, and the quality of their lives.

You should know:

These statistics are stories. For many PWN-USA members and leaders, the work of ending violence and trauma for women with HIV is all too personal – and what’s personal is political:

“I am no longer taking responsibility for your abuse. It’s not my fault.– Jay Blount, Co-Chair, PWN-USA-San Diego

“I have experienced domestic violence firsthand. I made the violence normal; I blamed myself for everything that happened, until I found someone who had the same experiences, who showed me where to get help. I have walked in the shoes of women survivors of violence; when they look at me and see the advocacy I’m doing now, they might think, ‘Maybe I can do helpful things for someone else, too.’” – LaDonna Boyens, Co-Chair, PWN-USA-Philadelphia

noviolence_image“Our lives matter! Women living with HIV are the strongest women I know, determined to survive. What has happened to so many of us in the past drags us under the surf and drowns us … help a sister out. Trauma-informed care, programs that identify PTSD and IPV, economic justice and protecting the rights of ALL women can change the world and MUST be a part of every program or funding opportunity.” – Barb Cardell, Co-Chair, PWN-USA-Colorado

“I know a couple of women that have been violently beaten on dates with men once they disclosed their HIV status. One of these women was hospitalized from the beating; both women had undetectable viral loads, which studies show means they had virtually zero chance of transmitting the virus. Women who are with a partner that abuses them may feel stuck in the relationship for fear of having to disclose their status to possible new partners. HIV stigma and criminalization laws contribute to an environment that devalues the lives of women with HIV and puts us at risk of violence – or even murder, like the recent case of Elisha Henson in Texas.” – Olga Irwin, Outreach Coordinator, PWN-USA-Ohio

“I have high hopes that we will succeed in shedding light on one of America’s dirtiest behind-closed-doors secrets.  IPV is not just a problem affecting resource-limited countries. It is a significant problem also in one of the richest, most scientifically developed countries with the best doctors and antiretroviral treatments in the world. This Thursday, the Bay Area of California will call out, and remember out loud, the names of women, including transgender women, that we have laughed and cried with through many seasons, whose lives were cut short by the violence within their homes, and who could not be saved by medication alone. Stand with us this Thursday, and shine a light against violence.” – Loren Jones, Co-Founder, PWN-USA-Bay Area

“Women should be loved not hurt for disclosing their HIV status! I feel that sharing my status is the best APHRODISIAC there is. Being loved/in love should never hurt!!!!” – Naimah Oneal, Co-Chair, PWN-USA-Ohio

violence_thrive“This is a poem that helps me to have courage to change my ‘don’t talk about it’ conditioning:

Unlearning To Not Speak

She must learn to speak
Starting with I
Starting with We
starting as the infant does
With her own true hunger
and pleasure
and rage.

– Marge Piercy – Cynthia Sanchez, PWN-USA-Bay Area


Things You Can Do on the October 23 Day of Action:

  1. Check out our social media toolkit! Includes talking points and recommendations for action
  2. Change your Facebook and/or Twitter profile image to one of the images provided in the toolkit
  3. Tweet and post on Facebook using the toolkit’s sample tweets and posts (or create your own); be sure to use the Day of Action hashtag #EndVAWHIV
  4. Raise your voice! Share your experiences! Contribute to a flash blog
  5. See what in-person events are happening throughout the US in Denver, Oakland, and beyond
  6. Read up on violence, trauma, women with HIV, and what you can do using these amazing resources:

PWN-USA Violence Against Women Fact Sheet

Healing Trauma and Ending Violence Against Women Are Crucial for Improving HIV Health Outcomes:  Moving From Recommendations to Action – Fact Sheet (PDF)

Update on Federal Progress Addressing the Intersections of Violence Against Women, HIV, and Trauma

The Intersection of Women, Violence, Trauma, and HIV – Fact Sheet (PDF – From AIDS United)

HIV, Intimate Partner Violence, and Women: New Opportunities Under the Affordable Care Act (From Kaiser Family Foundation)

DV & HIV/AIDS Toolkit for Providers (From National Network to End Domestic Violence)

2013 Report on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and HIV-Affected Intimate Partner Violence (From National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs)

PWN-USA Congratulates UCSF Women’s Health Clinic on Landmark Study of Women, Trauma and HIV Disclosure

Tools for Advocates to Respond to a Young Woman’s HIV-Related Murder

#SaveWomensLives #DVAM #decolonizeDVAM #EndVAWHIV #pwnspeaks


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