How GBV leads to HIV infection – by Nurse Angela

Relationships can be a wonderful experience that gives people a purpose in life. However, not all relationships are healthy, and when one feels they’re in control of their partner, this can make a relationship unhealthy. When one partner feels like they’re superior or entitled to dominate, this leads to violence and abuse. The link between gender based violence (GBV) and HIV/AIDS is usually rooted in these kinds of power imbalances- especially between men and women in relationships.

Power imbalance and HIV transmission

When used correctly and consistently during sex, condoms are very effective in preventing HIV transmission. In relationships where there’s an unhealthy power imbalance, the use of condoms usually isn’t discussed. Young women in unhealthy relationships are more often than not, at risk of feeling pressured to have unprotected sex if the man has no intention of using a condom. There’s an extremely high risk of transmitting and/or contracting HIV from any type of unprotected sex i.e. oral, anal, vaginal.

Economic, physical and emotional or psychological power are used to keep gender-based violence victims in unhealthy relationships. Young women from economically disadvantaged homes sometimes get involved in relationships with older men who have money, who don’t allow any negotiations for condom use, thus putting themselves at high risk of HIV transmission. Boy children are also at risk, as they get targeted by older men in similar ways. Giving out money and gifts to the victim are common practices by perpetrators. Both young women and boy children often believe that these presents or money gives the perpetrator the right to treat them the way they do, or force them to have unsafe sex.

There are very similar feelings identified from people who’ve experienced gender-based violence, and those infected with HIV such as:

  • Shame
  • Regret
  • Anger
  • Pride
  • Guilt
  • Loneliness
  • Hopelessness

Gender based violence causes serious emotional damage- making people feel anxious, fearful and scared. This is a very traumatic experience with possible lifetime damage.

Ways to prevent GBV and HIV transmission

The South African government has established the following services to protect against GBV vulnerability:

  • Psychosocial support services that focus on prevention and early intervention. These programmes are a part of the response, care and support provided to victims of gender-based violence.
  • Promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment- economically and socially.
  • Services that prevent psychoactive substance use which can lead to GBV- such as drugs.
  • Promotion of life skills- healthy lifestyle choices, development of supportive parenting and healthy social environment.
  • Equal access to education and vocational training.
  • Festive season campaigns – to encourage especially young people to enjoy the season responsibly, without using and abusing drugs and alcohol.
  • Awareness campaigns on GBV, HIV/AIDS and substance use at varsities, colleges and other higher learning spaces. These campaigns use dialogues and exhibitions to encourage students to live drug free and to report incidents of GBV and substance abuse.
  • The Department of Social Development has a GBV Command Centre, that provides professional psychosocial support and trauma counselling to victims of gender based violence.
  • The Command Centre has a 24/7 telephone call service, which provides psychosocial support and counselling to those affected by GBV- especially to women and children. If you or a loved one are in need, contact their toll-free number on 0800 428 428 or send a Please Call Me to *120*7867#.

If you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Message, a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).