‘Life outside this diagnosis’: Violence, HIV, and empowerment

زندگی خارج از اینگونه تشخیصات: خشونت, اچ آی وی و توانمندسازی
متاسفانه از تعداد 300,000 زنانی که با اچ آی وی زندگی می کنند, نیمی از آنان بنوعی مورد تعرض و خشونت جنسی بوسیله همسران خود یا مردان دیگری قرار گرفته اند.

“I never looked at it like I was a person who had experienced domestic violence. I just thought I was a chick who got beat up sometimes.”

Empowered: Women, HIV & Intimate Partner Violence, a short film released by Greater Than AIDS, features five women living with HIV—Gina, Michelle, Maria, Lynnea, and Vickie—who talk about life with the virus and the way it connects with abuse in their relationships.

Initially, explain the women, they saw their relationships as normal, not violent.

Their partners would prey on their self-esteem as women living with HIV by saying things like “you’re lucky to have me.” Childhood experiences of trauma and gender-based violence had also skewed their perspective of what was acceptable and affected their decisions as adults.

The women describe tolerating some violence in order to avoid more severe forms—for example, not raising the issue of condom use so as to not get beaten—for their safety and their children’s safety.

Violence Impacts HIV health

Women with HIV endure staggering rates of violence. In the United States, one in three women experiences intimate partner violence. For women living with HIV, the rate jumps to one in two.

“Of the 300,000 women who are living with HIV, half of us are currently experiencing intimate partner violence in some form,” says Gina.

Abuse takes on a toll on women’s health. Intimate partner violence helps drive HIV transmission, while also worsening the health outcomes of women living with HIV.

Maria talks about adhering to her medication and wondering why her T cell levels were still so low. An abusive relationship leaves women stressed and depressed, which can drive down T cell counts and hurt the immune system.

Depression can also mean women aren’t eating much, which means they can’t take their HIV medication. And some women may not take their medication regularly because they’re scared to do so in front of their partner.

Learn to love yourself

One of the biggest steps that women living with HIV can take is to learn to love themselves. HIV is a health condition that doesn’t change the inherent worth of women.

“All those years I was not what people told me I was,” explains Michelle. “I was not this bad girl. I was a girl who just wanted to be loved.”

This realization helped her address her own stigma and move toward a freer and happier life. She recently married a man who loves and respects her.

“There is life outside of this diagnosis.”

Source: Positive Women’s Network