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Addressing violence against HIV positive women

Last edited: March 08, 2011

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  • HIV positive women are at risk of experiencing the same forms of violence as other women in the population, in addition to new forms of direct and indirect violence, stigma and discrimination that arise because of their status. These include, but are not limited to:

    • Shunning

    • eviction;

    • property grabbing

    • barring women from seeing their children

    • maltreatment from family members and in-laws

    • maltreatment by service providers

    • forced sterilization and various forms of contraceptive control

    • forced abortion

    • police violence, abuse and extortion

    • loss of livelihoods

    • work-related abuses (e.g. unauthorized disclosure, testing without consent, dismissal or retraction of job offers)

    • denial of medication

    • use of discriminatory language

    • legislation and policy which is developed without using the lenses of gender and HIV status

    • clinical trials which do not adequately respect women’s autonomy, humanity and rights

    • the dominance of Western scientific understandings of ‘evidence’

    • institutional failure to understand the realities of HIV positive women’s experiences and to create supportive environments (e.g. no recognition of marital rape, lack of property and inheritance rights, employment protection)

Source: extracted from Hale, F. and Vasquez, M./Development Connections, the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS and UN Women. 2011. Violence Against Women Living with  HIV/AIDS: A Background Paper. See paper for additional studies cited.  Also available in Spanish.


  • Women living with HIV are entitled to the same rights as any other man or woman.  Addressing stigma, discrimination and violence against them requires a review of policies and laws to ensure they are aligned with international human rights and are understood through the lens of a positive woman; support to HIV positive women’s networks to facilitate monitoring and implementation of the law; support for women’s groups and other organizations that have been at the forefront of attending to the needs of HIV positive women and providing services; advocacy, awareness-raising and community mobilization to challenge negative social norms and behavioural practices among the population at large; and capacity development of health care workers, the police and justice sector personnel to respond appropriately.

Access recorded sessions to hear more from experts on violence against HIV positive women:

Recordings available in Spanish.


The People Living with HIV Stigma Index (The Global Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (GNP+); The International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS (ICW); The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF); and The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) with support from the UK Department for International Development).  This tool by and for people living with HIV has been developed to measure stigma and benchmark progress in addressing it.  The tool and accompanying guidelines are available in English.

HIV & AIDS – Stigma and Violence Intervention Manual (Duvvury, N., Prasad, N. and Kishore, N./ICRW, 2006). Available in English.

Understanding and Challenging HIV Stigma: Toolkit for Action (revised edition) (International HIV/AIDS Alliance and PACT, Tanzania, 2007). Available in English.

Reducing HIV Stigma and Gender Based Violence Toolkit for Health Care Providers in India: Toolkit for Healthcare Providers in India.(ICRW, 2007). Available in English.

Facilitator's Guide for Training on HIV & AIDS Stigma and Discrimination Reduction (WACC/Christian Council of Ghana, 2010).  Available in English.

 Understanding and Challenging HIV Stigma: Toolkit for Action (ICRW, 2003). Available in English.

Can We Measure HIV/AIDS-related Stigma and Discrimination? Current Knowledge about Quantifying Stigma in Developing Countries (Nyblade, L. and MacQuarrie, K./International Centre for Research on Women, 2006). Available in English.

Sexual and Reproductive Health for HIV-Positive Women and Adolescent Girls: Manual for Trainers and Programme Managers (EngenderHealth and International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS, 2006). Available in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian; 239 pages.

Positive Women Monitoring Change: A Monitoring Tool on Access to Care, Treatment and Support, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and Violence against Women Created by and for HIV Positive Women (International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS, 2005).  Available in English.