Address SGBV to Deliver on the 90.90.90 Targets in Kenya
Sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) targeting girls and women is a big barrier to delivering the 90.90.90 targets in Kenya: 90% of girls and women testing for HIV; 90% of girls and women living with HIV initiating HIV treatment and 90% of girls and women living with HIV who are on treatment adhering to life-long treatment to enable them achieve viral suppression.
As a result, leaders and representatives of girls and women living with HIV have now called upon the Ministry of Health and partners to tackle SGBV as part of the response to HIV. The demand was part of the recommendations made at the National Women Living with HIV Forum (National WLHIV forum) held in Nairobi between 27-30 June 2016.
Technically and financially supported by UNDP, through the grant by the Korea International Development Agency, the forum which brought together over 60 representatives of WLHIV, including 8 representatives of young people from various counties was convened by the Country Office partners working on HIV and AIDS. These included the National AIDS control Council, (NACC), National Empowerment Network of People Living with HIV in Kenya (NEPHAK), Kenya Legal and Ethical Issues Network on HIV and AIDS (KELIN) and the HIV & AIDS Equity Tribunal.
Addressing participants during the opening session, the NACC Director Dr. Nduku Kilonzo remarked, “ Sexual and gender based violence targeting women and girls living with HIV is a huge hindrance to effective AIDS response in the country. We must all support interventions that challenge SGBV to enable Kenya meet its Kenya AIDS Strategic Framework 2014/15 – 2018/19 targets.”
While also speaking at the same event, Dr. Jantine Jacobi, the UNAIDS Country Director emphasized, “to enable Kenya attain its Sustainable Development Goal three to Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages, the country must eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres including violence towards women and girls living with HIV.
The initiative is part of the ‘Know Your Rights Trainings’ that emerged from recommendations of the 2014/2015 UNDP commissioned Baseline Survey on ‘Common forms of Sexual and Gender Based Violence against Women Living with HIV’. During the forum, participants were also trained on various laws and policies that exist to ensure their safety and which they can also use to mitigate sexual and gender based violence.
Women living with HIV regularly face discrimination and are more likely to experience violence– a direct result of their HIV diagnosis. Living with HIV exposes women to new forms of violence, not only from partners, family members and the wider community, but also within institutional settings, such as health care and prisons. Gender-blind laws and policies around HIV further compound the problem. Women from key populations affected by HIV, such as female sex workers, women drug users, and women in the criminal justice system are even more likely to experience violence.
The baseline survey also revealed that in 72.5% of the cases, perpetrators are persons known to the WLHIV (they could be extended family, neighbors or husbands/partners).
It is envisioned that the trainings will enable women and other affected populations monitor, document, refer and even mitigate cases of human rights abuses involving people living with HIV, including those that are linked to gender based violence.