The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is proud to join the international campaign for (November 25 – December 10, 2021). In recognition of this year’s global theme – “Orange the world: End violence against women now!” – PEPFAR echoes the urgent call to end gender-based violence (GBV) and recommits to delivering GBV prevention and response services for the communities that we support.
GBV prevention and response and child safeguarding are key PEPFAR priorities, and critical in achieving and sustaining epidemic control of HIV. GBV and sexual exploitation are grave human rights violations and abuses that are deeply rooted in gender inequality. They not only threaten the health and safety of those who are most vulnerable to HIV but also undermine global AIDS progress. In particular, survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV) have lower usage of pre-exposure prophylaxis1 and HIV antiretroviral therapy (ART) (including half the rate of self-reported ART adherence), and significantly lower rates of viral suppression among women. Additionally, sexual exploitation and abuse often have long-term impacts on the health and wellbeing of survivors.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it is even more imperative to prevent and respond to GBV, sexual exploitation, and abuse. COVID-related lockdowns, school closures, and travel restrictions have fueled stress and economic uncertainty, resulting in what UN Women describes as a “ of violence,” especially IPV, against women and girls in all their diversity. Through PEPFAR programming, we have prioritized the adaptation of GBV interventions and services to respond to the unique and often urgent needs of survivors during these unprecedented times.
As we approach World AIDS Day on December 1, PEPFAR remains deeply committed to achieving epidemic control of HIV through the provision of equitable, person-centered services that respect the dignity and rights of all those who put their trust in us, particularly the most vulnerable. Everyone we support or engage with globally has the right to feel protected from all forms of harm, including exploitation, abuse, neglect, discrimination, and coercion. All our staff and implementing partners are responsible for upholding our zero-tolerance policy for any form of harm and for enhancing the safety of all persons participating in PEPFAR programs.
In alignment with the United States ; the forthcoming update to the ; and the (which aim to reduce gender inequality and violence to less than 10 percent of women, girls, people living with HIV, and key populations by 2025), PEPFAR is committed to preventing and responding to GBV as a core component of our programming and to safeguarding PEPFAR program participants from sexual exploitation and abuse.
We stand united with the global community during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, as we rededicate ourselves to ending the dual epidemics of HIV and GBV, including violence against women, children, and key populations. Achieving these goals is vital to protecting human rights, strengthening global health security, supporting economic development, and creating a healthier and safer world.
About the Author: Dr. Angeli Achrekar serves as Acting U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy at the U.S. Department of State.