M&G makes crucial connection between GBV & HIV
Media coverage of gender-based violence (GBV) and HIV must make the connection between these critical issues clear.
In the weeks leading up to Women’s Month a renewed focus on the issues affecting women in society will once again dominate the pages of newspapers and magazines.
Gender-based violence (GBV) is an important issue especially when considering women’s heightened vulnerability to HIV infection. A recent article in the Mail&Guardian made this vital link between GBV and HIV, a connection the media has often failed to acknowledge and engage with in the past.
In unpacking the ties between GBV and HIV, the article observes the direct ways in which violence can increase women’s susceptibility to HIV. For example, the often violent act of rape can result in small tears in the vagina that allow HIV to enter the body.
However the article also continues to delve into a crucial, more complex discussion of the psychological impact violence has on a women and how this may increase a woman’s risk of contracting HIV.
In doing so the report uncovers a far more complex relationship between GBV and HIV, revealing the more indirect ways that violence may contribute to HIV infection among women.
The article explains that as a result of GBV women may become disempowered and experience extremely low self esteem and self worth. This can in turn impair women’s ability to take the steps necessary to protect themselves from HIV or could result in women feeling they are unworthy of affording themselves that protection.
Considering the high rates of HIV and domestic violence in South Africa understanding and addressing the relationship between GBV and HIV within the South African context becomes a necessary prerequisite to addressing HIV.
Hopefully future media coverage of GBV will take a page out of the Mail & Guardian’s book, continuing to explore the interconnections between GBV and HIV in all their complexity.