Several HIV positive cases due to gender violence — officials

Several HIV positive cases due to gender violence — officials

Senior staff reporter

Sunday, November 29, 2020

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CIVIL society representatives are reporting a prevalence of HIV positive cases amongst women who experience intimate partner violence.

Patrick Lalor, policy and advocacy officer at Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL), told the Jamaica Observer that his organisation currently has people in care who have become HIV positive as a result of gender-based violence.

“So a woman is in a relationship where she knows a man has three, four other partners out there, but is also violent towards her. So, she wants to say when you come home to have sex with me, I want you to use a condom because I don't trust what you are doing out there. But, at the same time, she runs the risk of being hit if she raises the subject and what we find happening in most cases is that the tables are turned,” Lalor told the Sunday Observer.

He added: “The unfaithful man then starts to ask, 'Why you want to use condom? What is it that you are doing. You're not being faithful?' So you find that these women, due to fear of violence, stay in these relationships and continue to have unprotected sex and eventually become HIV positive.”

Lalor said the situation gets worse when abused women try to access care, it exposes them to more violence as their abusers often accuse them of infidelity to pin the blame of contracting HIV on them.

“They are the ones who come to care and eventually find out their status and then the tables are turned again. The unfaithful man then says, 'You infected me with something'. Why?' The woman finds out her status and maybe says you need to go to the doctor, something is wrong and then the tables are turn that you are the one who infected him,” Lalor said.

In addition, Lalor said there are women who are in violent relationships and know of their infections but cannot access treatment consistently and cannot stay on treatment as that also exposes them to more violence.

“Then there's the other angle where people who are infected cannot achieve viral suppression or stay on treatment, again, because of the guy. She knows she is living with HIV, she has a medical appointment, but she's in a controlled relationship. Where does she tell this man she is going when she has her clinic appointment? What does she tell him she is taking pills for when taking these medications? So the next step is, out of fear of further violence she doesn't keep her appointments and doesn't take medication or takes them in those moments where she gets a bit of privacy. But, he is always there so most times she misses the medication and can't achieve the maximum health we want her to achieve,” Lalor said.

Meanwhile, Joy Crawford, executive director of Eve for Life, said, in addition to intimate partner violence resulting in HIV in somebody's life, HIV positive individuals experience violence simply because they are positive, particularly from their communities.

“You're looking at violence within communities, violence within homes, where an entire community can attack somebody simply because they are HIV positive. Children of people who are living with HIV also face the chance of being discriminated, where the mother is positive so the child gets beat up at school. The violence is linked and both can become the reason you get HIV as well as the consequence of getting HIV,” Crawford said.

Further, Crawford said the Jamaican society has come a long way in the gender-based violence conversation but the missing piece remains getting the regular Jamaican citizen who has seen or heard about gender-based violence to own it and report it.

“A lot of these events are set up by policymakers and agency heads. But how do you now get the Jamaican citizen to say what I heard on the radio or on Zoom is something that I need to now put in practice. That I think happens only if you have community interventions,” she said.

Crawford maintained that grass root approaches to behaviour change must be employed to get the greatest shift in understanding and action.

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