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Violence Against Women Fueling Spread of HIV Worldwide

Violence against women worldwide is fueling the spread of HIV in the population. Some governments indifference to the issue will continue to undermine prevention// and education efforts, advocates said this week at the World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya, Inter Press Service reports.

"Violence is largely a cause of HIV infection among many women; violence in the homes and in the streets, violence everywhere," Ludfine Anyango, the national HIV/AIDS coordinator at Action Kenya-International, said.

Anyango also discussed women's inability to negotiate condom use with their partners, which puts them at an increased risk of HIV transmission. "Many cannot ask their husbands to use a condom because, in addition to being thought as unfaithful, they fear being beaten," Anyango said, adding, "The woman then has no choice but to continue having unprotected sex with her spouse." Violence against commercial sex workers also is an issue, according to Ros Sokunthy of the Cambodia-based Womyn's Agenda for Change, which promotes the rights of women and female sex workers.

"A sex worker negotiates with one man," Sokunthy said, adding, "When she gets to the venue she finds more than one man, and they all want to have sex with her. When she refuses, she is beaten or raped."

In addition, WSF participants discussed how some husbands beat their wives if they discover that they visited HIV/AIDS voluntary testing and counseling centers. "This fear discourages many women from knowing their HIV status and thus continue having unprotected sex with their spouses," Mary Watiti -- a counselor at a testing clinic in Kibera, Kenya -- said.

According to Inter Press Service, these issues have renewed calls for laws to address all forms of violence against women, as well as implementation of laws in countries where such legislation exists. Male involvement in the fight against HIV/AIDS also is important, advocates said.

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