Ringing the Alarm for 3 out of 4

3 in every 4 women living with HIV (WLHIV) in the United States report a history of violence compared with 1 in every 4 women in the general population.
Why is this? Why does an HIV status make women more at risk, more vulnerable to, more susceptible, to violence? My first answer is stigma. The fear of the unknown. The fear of the risk of transmission; however there is much more going on under the surface and it's time we talked about it more.
Through the powerful efforts of the women involved in the Positive Women's Network, through the engagement on headlines in various cities of women brutally beaten and killed, a call to action has been announced. The alarms have been rung...but do you hear them?
  • 55% of WLHIV have experienced intimate partner violence (IPV). Some WLHIV have faced violence following disclosure of their HIV status.
  • 30% of WLHIV are living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Abuse and violence negatively impact health outcomes for women with HIV and low-income women may be especially vulnerable in relationships.
But let me not bore you with statistics, reports or other data. Let me introduce you to Elisha Henson, mother of two, strangled to death because she was living with HIV. Her killer stated Henson had performed oral sex on him. It was afterwards, an acquaintance mentioned Henson's "illness", he learned of her HIV status. Her body was found in a lake.
Meet, Cicely Bolden, also a mother of two, was brutally stabbed to death by her partner, who was cheating on his spouse. He learned of Bolden's status, decided to consent to sex with her one more time, then killed her, stating he wanted to "make her pay."
The risk of transmitting HIV through oral sex, according to the CDC is much less than the risk of HIV transmission through anal or vaginal sex. Bolden's murderer has remained to test negative for HIV. 
The tragedy is not just in the loss of life or innocent children losing a parent; but also in the ignorance behind the supposed "passion" of the murders. Assuming your own HIV status through discovery of someone else you may have had unprotected sex with is dangerous. The only way to know your status is to get tested.
These are not the only cases in which this is happening and not all of them end in death; however they are happening. Rapidly, quietly, dangerously. All the while, leaving the shadow of shame and stigma hovering over someone who has been diagnosed with HIV. How these cases are brought to light, handled and discussed plays a pivotal role in whether people will ever feel free to disclose their status and not face repercussions that could cause them their life. 
HIV is a manageable virus of the body that can be treated. No, there is still is not a cure, but there isn't a cure for the common cold and people aren't murdering each other over that either. 
Join emPOWERed Legacies, the Positive Women's Network and other agencies during October 23rd as we stand for those that can't and break the chains to end the culture of violence  and instead, support the laws, policies, programs and culture that promotes safety and healing from trauma for WLHIV.
As of right now, the solutions are to:
  • repeal laws that place WLHIV at disproportionate risk for violence, including laws criminalizing HIV, drug use, and sex work
  • demand implementation of trauma-informed services and programs for WLHIV
  • advance partnerships and linkages between HIV and domestic violence services
  • support economic empowerment and self-sufficiency for WLHIV
  • Share this blog and other posts on PWN's websites using the hashtag #endvawhiv and #pwnspeaks
    • Retweet PWN by following them @uspwn and myself @mrs_kam
    • Participate in the national conversation beyond October 23rd
Together, we will come up with more solutions. Together we will end the violence. Together we will stand and the world will see us. We are HERE! See us LIVE!