HIV and gender violence

Gender violence is a major public health problem in its own right. In Southern Africa it is an important risk factor for HIV infection. A recent review discusses how gender violence could be an important reason for the particularly high rates of HIV infection among young women in Southern Africa. A recent CIET serological study in Botswana, Namibia and Swaziland found physical intimate partner violence (IPV) strongly related to HIV status.

Diagram-of-GV-HIV-links1

Schematic representation of the links between gender violence and HIV infection

Randomised controlled trials in South Africa have shown that educational and structural interventions can lower the rate of gender violence, although not yet demonstrating that this is associated with significant reduction in HIV rates. The Choice Disability trial in Botswana, Namibia and Swaziland and the INSTRUCT trial in Botswana have HIV infection among young women as the primary outcome measure, with intermediate outcomes including rates of gender violence and associated attitudes and beliefs.

CIET has studied rates and risk factors of gender violence in Southern Africa over the last 15 years. We have also studied violence against women in other countries. In Pakistan, CIET conducted the only nationally representative study of abuse against women, in a household survey of over 20,000 women. This led to some important methodological lessons and examined why very few women report their experience of violence. In a study of maternal morbidity in two states in Nigeria, we found the experience of intimate partner violence to be a risk factor for maternal morbidity.