Gender-based violence is not only a violation of human rights, but also fosters the spread of HIV by limiting one’s ability to negotiate safe sexual practices, disclose HIV status, and access services due to fear of reprisal.
PEPFAR-supported Violence Against Children surveys (VACs) have helped raise awareness about the nature and magnitude of violence against children, adolescents, and young adults. These surveys, which have been funded by PEPFAR in 15 countries, found that an average of one in three young women reported their first sexual experience as forced or coerced.
Such violence increases a girl’s likelihood of HIV acquisition and many other negative outcomes. VACs and program experience show that children rarely disclose sexual violence when it does occur, and that community norms may serve as a deterrent to formal reporting. Thus, preventing and responding to sexual violence to ameliorate its negative consequences are fundamental approaches for preventing HIV.
Based on these and other data, PEPFAR supports programs that respond to the complexities of violence against AGYW. Violence prevention and post-violence care are part of the DREAMS core package of interventions. In addition, PEPFAR’s Faith and Community Initiative will prioritize ensuring justice for children through education of key faith, traditional and other community leaders on the issue of sexual violence against children, interventions to change harmful gender norms, support for the development of child safeguarding policies in youth-serving organizations, as well as linking with and strengthening the criminal justice sector. PEPFAR also works with governments to develop and implement national, multi-sectoral plans that address violence against women and children.