Let's Confront, Not Ignore

Some subjects can be easier to ignore than confront. Sweep them under the rug and maybe they will go away.

But as we all know, there are very few problems that go away simply through wishful thinking. Gender-based violence is one such problem that will not fade away unless we act. That’s why this year’s “Day of the Girl Child” on October 11th is drawing attention to “Empowering Adolescent Girls: Ending the Cycle of Violence.”

Sexual violence against pre-adolescents and adolescents is alarmingly high, with 28 to 38 percent of girls reporting an unwanted sexual experience before the age of 18. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-supported National Violence Against Children Surveys (VACS) show, that among women aged 18-24 years, nearly 44 percent in Swaziland, 29 percent in Tanzania, and 41percent in Zimbabwe reported experiencing sexual violence before the age of 18.

Gender-based violence and HIV are intricately linked. Girls who experience violence are three times more likely to have an unwanted pregnancy, and up to three times as likely to have HIV or other sexually transmitted infections.

The rates of new HIV infections among girls continue to be disproportionately high, year after year, as compared to their male counterparts. In 2013, among the hardest-hit countries in sub-Saharan Africa, nearly 80 percent of all new infections among adolescents occurred among girls. (UNAIDS, 2014).

The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is working with U.S. implementing agencies, partner countries, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and other multilateral partners, and civil society groups to address gender-based violence and HIV prevention for adolescent girls in a holistic manner. This means bringing together many relevant approaches from multiple sectors– education, health, economic, and psycho-social– to establish a core package of evidence-based interventions.

PEPFAR is also a founding partner of “Together for Girls”-- a ground-breaking public-private partnership that seeks to end violence against children, especially sexual violence against girls. To date, with PEPFAR support, eight countries have conducted VACS for the very first time, and there are plans to expand to ten more in the next two years. Better understanding the extent of the problem is a critical step to finding solutions and, ultimately, saving lives.

Every girl should be able to live her life free of gender-based violence. It is just that simple. Thankfully, the world is beginning to shine a light not only on the problem, but also on solutions. We have a long way to go, but if we confront rather than ignore the issue, we can build a brighter future for millions of girls.

About the Author: Daniela Ligiero, Ph.D., serves as Senior Gender Advisor in the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator.

Follow @PEPFAR on Twitter for more information on U.S. efforts to help save the lives of those at risk from HIV/AIDS around the world.

Comments

Comments

Oleg V.
|
Alabama, USA
October 11, 2014
It is shocking to know that gender-based violence and HIV are intricately linked. It is disturbing to know that girls who experience violence are three times more likely to have an unwanted pregnancy, and up to three times as likely to have HIV or other sexually transmitted infections. In any corner and everywhere, every girl should be able to live her life free of gender-based violence. To achieve this requires collective action among all stakeholders of human life. Education, community outreach and emergence of more active non-governmental organizations would go a long way to bring this menace to a minimal level.
Young Girl Not Infected With HIV Stands Alone in a Courtyard Outside an AIDS Clinic
Posted by Daniela Ligiero
October 11, 2014

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